Maybe Sullivan is just intimidated by all the numbers, so let’s try to build a scenario even a third-grader could understand. Here is my attempt:
Mom, dad, and a bill collector are sitting at a table. Mom and dad owe a lot of money, and have spent the last couple years arguing about it. Mom has ten dollars on the table in front of her, and so does dad, and they need to decide how much each has to give to the bill collector while still being able to live.
In walks Paul Ryan, one of dad’s buddies. He says “Hey- I’ve got a great idea to fix your problems and pay off the bill collector, but you have to trust me.” Mom and dad are hesitant, but agree, because everyone knows that Paul Ryan is a very serious person, a thinking man’s thinker, with all sorts of awesome solutions and a square jawline and piercing blue eyes.
Ryan then says- “Ok. The first thing that needs to be done is I need Mom to give me half her money.” Mom is skeptical, but says ok, and hands Ryan five dollars.
Instead of giving mom’s money to the bill collector, Ryan then immediately hands the five dollars to Dad and says “Ok. Now that that is done, we need to figure out how to pay the bill collector. I’m going to suggest you two make a bunch of unspecified lifestyle changes that will cut what you owe the bill collector in the future. I’ll leave that up to you, but you aren’t going to be allowed to take any money out of your home security budget. Also, we’re not really going to pay anything to the bill collector right now, but that is ok, because since mom gave dad that five bucks, I promise you that in ten years you both will making a whole lot more money and then you can pay the bill collector. Yes, I know that mom will be really hurting for money and won’t be able to pay for her bills, but that is your problem. Some basic cruelty is necessary because the math demands it.”
Ryan is then met with a standing ovation from Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks, and many of dad’s bestest friends for his very serious ideas.
That’s what the “very serious” Paul Ryan/GOP Path to Prosperity does.