James Fallows, in a post titled “The Brave and Serious Mr. Ryan,” simply unloads:
1) A plan to deal with budget problems that says virtually nothing about military spending is neither brave nor serious. That would be enough to disqualify it from the “serious” bracket, but there’s more.
2) A plan that proposes to eliminate tax loopholes and deductions, but doesn’t say what any of those are, is neither brave nor serious. It is, instead canny — or cynical, take your pick. The reality is that many of these deductions, notably for home-mortgage interest payments, are popular and therefore risky to talk about eliminating.
3) A plan that exempts from future Medicare cuts anyone born before 1957 — about a quarter of the population, which includes me — is neither brave nor serious. See “canny or cynical: take your pick” above.
4) A plan to reconcile revenue and spending, which rules out axiomatically any conceivable increase in tax rates, is neither brave nor serious. Rather, it is exactly as brave and serious as some opposite-extreme proposal that ruled out axiomatically any conceivable cut in entitlement spending or discretionary accounts.
5) A plan to reduce the federal deficit by granting big tax reductions to the highest-income Americans, at a time when their tax rates are very low by historic standards and and their share of the national income is extremely high, and when middle-class job creation is our main economic challenge, is neither brave nor serious. See “cynical,” above.
6) A plan that identifies rising health-care costs as the main problem in public spending, but avoids altogether the question of how to contain those costs, is neither brave nor serious. This is a longer and more complicated discussion (see below*); but I submit that the more closely anyone looks at the Ryan plan, the less “serious” it will seem on this extremely important front.
7) A plan that reduces, among other things, research on future energy sources and technologies by about 85% may be “brave,” but it’s also crazy and short-sighted.
Ryan’s budget plan is no worse than some other partisan proposals, and it has the virtue of being more detailed than most. Let me hasten to say that it is more comprehensive and convincing than one I could draw up myself. But it’s also no big intellectual or conceptual improvement on other partisan proposals. The wonder is that Ryan has managed to convince some people that it is.
Shots fired. I’m thinking Fallows is off the Daily Dish Christmas card list. I believe over the past few days I have mentioned every one of those points, btw, but then again I used all caps and hurt Sully’s fee-fees, so it is cool to lie about what I said.