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The Keen-Eyed Jonathan Chait Watches the Paul Ryan Fans Wake Up

Jonathan Chait:

Daily Intel: Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate is subjecting him to all manner of strange new indignities, such as questions about public policy that are different than those that his own press staff would have written. The Washington Post reported this weekend that Ryan has opposed bipartisan compromises to reduce the budget deficit. The facts in the story aren’t new. (If anything, they understate the active, crucial role Ryan has played in killing these deals.)…

What is new is that Lori Montgomery is actually, you know, reporting what happened--albeit soft-peddling pieces of it that are quite discreditable to Ryan.

Chait continues:

And then there was Ryan’s surreal interview…. [Chri] Wallace is trying to do something that Ryan is not used to: ask him how the numbers in his plan add up. The Romney tax plan is premised on a mathematical impossibility…. Even making a series of assumptions ranging from friendly to impossibly friendly, it can’t add up. The lost revenue from the tax rate cuts on income over $250,000 exceeds the available revenue from eliminating deductions. Even Republican attempts to disprove this finding have inadvertently confirmed it.

In the interview, Wallace tries to walk through the facts with Ryan. He begins by asking about the cost of the rate cuts, which is about $5 trillion over a decade. Ryan refuses to answer the question. He tries various tricks to avoid it. First he pretends Wallace is asking a different question — that he’s asking about the net cost of the entire plan, rather than the gross cost of the rate cuts. He cracks jokes about the unreliability of statistics. He filibusters by making a speech about economic growth.

Wallace asks the question seven times, and Ryan fills one minute and 48 seconds avoiding it. Finally, the final time Wallace asks Ryan to give him the math, Ryan asserts, “It would take me too long to go through all the math.” There was plenty of time if he hadn’t spent two minutes dodging the question! In any case, the math doesn’t take a long time to explain, but Ryan doesn’t want to explain it, because it would reveal unavoidable and unpopular trade-offs in the campaign’s tax plan that he’d rather conceal.

A person who thinks highly of Ryan, or who notes the sudden souring of his media coverage, might suspect that the problem lies in the fact that he is now defending Romney’s plan rather than his own. But that is not the case. Ryan’s plan is worse…