Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Seriously, Not

That scratchy feeling on your forehead is David Brooks trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Brooks got all hot and bothered glimpsing Paul Ryan's Kill Medicare proposal:

But the forces of reform have not been entirely silenced. Over the past few weeks, a number of groups, including the ex-chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and 64 prominent budget experts, have issued letters arguing that the debt situation is so dire that doing nothing is not a survivable option. What they lacked was courageous political leadership — a powerful elected official willing to issue a proposal, willing to take a stand, willing to face the political perils.

The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes (which will) set the standard for seriousness.

Ryan's plan is a lot of things- almost all of them bad- but serious is not one of them. Paul Krugman, in phase 1 of what will be his evisceration of the scheme hatched by the Wisconsin extremist, notes that Ryan projects an unemployment rate below 3% (graph, below) by 2020. However

Except briefly during the Korean War, the United States has never achieved unemployment as low as Ryan and co. are claiming. The Fed believes that the lowest unemployment rate compatible with price stability is between 5 and 6 percent — that is, twice what Ryan is claiming he will achieve.

Serious, hardly. It promises to set the top rate for corporate and income taxes at 25%, 10 per cent below the rate (35%) of 2011, a level not seen since 1931, when it was raised from 25% to 63%, preceding our emergence from the Great Depression. It would be 14.60% higher than the 39.60% it stood at during most of the 1990s (chart, below; click to enlarge), when the U.S.A. had to struggle through an unprecedented period of economic growth.

Ryan does promise to cut out some tax deductions and carve outs but, given the structure of his 2010 Roadmap for America's Destruction, it's highly unlikely that the burden will be borne by those most able to afford it.

"The Ryan budget," Brooks claims, "will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract." Apparently, "the current welfare state is simply unsustainable" because of the demands of elderly people needing medical care, available only through Medicare; reforming the welfare state of the corporate-industrial complex and of oil companies must remain off-the-table.

Brooks and the Truly Serious will fawn yet again over Paul Ryan, believing "there are still people in the GOP who make sense." Unfortunately, the Wisconsin's plan, as Kevin Drum notes, will

be the consensus view of the entire Beltway punditocracy. A plan dedicated almost entirely to slashing social spending in a country that's already the stingiest spender in the developed world, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich in a country with the lowest tax rates in the developed world — well, what could be more serious than that?

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