J.V. Stalin Liveblogs World War II: January 25, 1943
Ezra Klein: "Ryan’s wrong on that…. [T]he evidence doesn’t support Ryan’s contention…. Ryan… didn’t actually provide a study or historical experience…"

Paul Ryan Resorts to Word Salad on Tax Policy


Nobody has any business supporting this branch of Republicans. Nobody at all.

Jonathan Chait:

Paul Ryan Breaks Down Under Wonkterrogation: Ezra Klein then asks what evidence [Paul Ryan] has that taking “another $600 billion or $700 billion out of tax expenditures” would harm the economy. Tax expenditures means eliminating tax deductions for specific things, rather than raising rates. Here’s Ryan’s reply:

I think rates matter. I think the statutory rate matters at the end of the day.

Note that this is not the premise of the question at all. He was asked about reducing tax deductions, leaving rates in place, and stated he wouldn’t do it because he likes low rates.

Klein then transcribes the resulting exchange:

“But you could have the same or lower rate there,” I said. After all, if you’re closing loopholes, the top marginal tax rate doesn’t change.

“I don’t know about that,” said Ryan. “Remember, we have to write these things statically. We don’t use macroeconomic feedback on the Joint Tax Committee.”

“But if you capped deductions at $15,000,” I pressed, “that wouldn’t change rates.”

Ryan didn’t budge. “You have to decide where you want to cap deduction or which deductions stay or go, what will pass, and what the resulting rates will be.

Here Ryan is descending into word salad… using terms that pertain to tax policy – “statically,” “Joint Tax Committee” but he is not using them in a way that makes any sense. The fact is that you could increase tax revenue by capping deductions, without increasing rates, or even with lowering rates….

Ryan proceeds to insist he won’t trade revenue for spending cuts because such a deal is inherently a trick:

The other problem I’ve noticed — and this is just experience from my fifteen years in Congress — every time you give a little revenue, it just goes to spending. The spending cuts are always later and the revenue gets pocketed. It’s one of those fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

In fact, as Klein notes, Ryan’s belief that revenue just gets “pocketed” is false. But you don’t even need evidence to see that. It’s silly as a matter of logic. Ryan is arguing for getting Obama to agree to spending cuts. He obviously thinks those cuts are real….

Ryan then circled back to his “we already increased revenue” point, and then got to his real position:

And by the way, I think that revenue level is way too high, I don’t see how you get there….

Ryan understands that he can get much farther by pitching himself as an opponent of debt rather than an opponent of taxes. So he will go to pretty far to avoid explicating his actual legislative stance. But that is Paul Ryan’s position. If you like Republican anti-tax orthodoxy, you’ll like Paul Ryan.