Gotta run, and I’ll have more on this later, but for now, I’d like to propose a new rule for journalists:
Anyone who refers to Rep Paul Ryan as a “fiscal hawk” (as I just heard on NPR) without the words “alleged” or “NOT” very close by must pay a hefty fine (said fine will itself be applied to jobs measures in the near term and deficit reduction after that).
Matt Miller takes Ryan’s undeserved fiscal rep apart here but I have to tell you—it takes only a glancing familiarity with his budget work to uncover the fiscal reality of what’s up here, and that would be red ink.
The federal government basically defends the nation, provides public goods, regulates negative externalities, applies countercyclical stimulus when the market fails, and protects the vulnerable, including the safety net and retirement security. Rep Ryan’s budgets increase the defense function and cut taxes trillions beyond Bush. Thus, any claims to achieve balance must occur through massive spending cuts on everything else, and he’s actually been more specific than his new boss—all fodder for arguments we’ll be having over the next few months.
But he is soon to run into what every ideological spending cutter runs into: people, including the Tea Party themselves, not to mention the Catholic Bishops, don’t want to live with the real implications of such deep cuts. So, just like under W, you’re left with large tax cuts and budget deficits. Heck, Rep Ryan himself voted for TARP and supported the auto bailout–lots of suppliers in WI–not to mention the various gov’t benefits enjoyed by his district (see here).
To be clear, he’s no fiscal hawk and I’m no deficit hawk, so shouldn’t I be OK with this paradox? Not at all, because any Keynesian spending on jobs needs to occur in the near term, something he and Gov Romney are explicitly against. Then, in the interest of fiscal sustainability, such temporary spending should leave the system once the recovery is finally on track. Otherwise, you’re stuck with what has in recent decades become a Republican malady: structural budget deficits, the type that persist even as the economy expands.
Like they say, “If you’ve got a reputation as an early riser, you can sleep til noon.”
Well, I for one will be waking up early over the next few months to impose fines on anyone who gets this wrong.