Rep. Paul Ryan's Budget Isn't "Serious" — It's Snake Oil

April 05, 2011 1:13 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Rep. Paul Ryan

There's a lot of talk of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget proposal being "serious." New York Times columnist David Brooks, for example, writes "His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion."

Nonsense. Ryan's proposal isn't serious. It's snake oil. 

National Journal's Tim Fernholz reports:

One of Ryan's largest areas of savings—$1.4 trillion—comes from repealing the president's health care plan, a move that the Congressional Budget Office has insisted as recently as January would add $230 billion to the deficit over 10 years. It is not clear where the much larger savings Ryan's plan envisions would be drawn from.

When CBO says repealing the Affordable Care Act will add $230 billion to the deficit, and Paul Ryan says it will save $1.4 trillion without offering a plausible explanation, that isn't "serious." It's snake oil. 

Fernholz adds:

An analysis performed by the conservative Heritage Foundation at Ryan's request found the unemployment rate would be reduced to 4 percent in 2015 by Ryan's budget, an incredibly low number when many economists believe the economy will not return to so-called "full employment" of about 5 percent until years after that.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has been at or below 4 percent for a grand total of 12 months since January 1970. Twelve months in 40 years. Eleven of those 12 months came in 1999-2000, as the culmination of one of the largest economic booms in American history. And Paul Ryan and Heritage would have you believe Ryan's budget will replicate that historically low level of unemployment in just a few years. That isn't "serious."

Speaking of the Heritage Foundation, Matthew Yglesias notes that Ryan's budget cites Heritage as the basis for Ryan's claims that his budget will boost economic growth. As Yglesias explains, Heritage has been spectacularly wrong in its analysis of tax proposals in recent years:

Heritage also claimed Bush's tax cuts would boost tax revenue ("the national debt would effectively be paid off by FY 2010″) when in fact it led to record deficits, and they promised a surge in personal income when in fact we got the worst income performance ever.

Writing a budget plan that treats the Heritage Foundation as a more credible source of budget analysis than the CBO, that magically assumes trillions in deficit reduction, and that claims historically low levels of unemployment are just around the corner isn't "serious." It isn't even wishful thinking. It's fraud.