Paul Ryan Budget Problems: Ryan Budget is Fake, Says Paul Krugman


If you weren’t already aware, Paul Krugman still has a serious problem with Paul Ryan’s budget.

“What they’ve actually put on the table is almost nothing. All of the rest is just big talk. So how is the president supposed to negotiate with people who say, ‘Here’s my demands. By the way, I can’t give you any specifics. Just make me happy’?”

“The Ryan budget is full of — is full of magic asterisks, too. It's not a real budget. It's a fake document. I mean, I'm amazed that people haven't gotten that. You know, we're now a couple of years into the Ryan thing, and the fact that he doesn't actually present real budgets,” he later continued.

Krugman’s comments came during a spirited discussion of the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations in Congress on ABC’s This Week’s roundtable discussion with Krugman, conservative pundit George Will, ABC’s Matthew Dowd, James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Krugman has devoted an immense amount of time and effort debunking conservative arguments on the national budget and fiscal cliff. This rebuttal followed George Will’s assertion that “the real problem in this country today isn’t the divisions we talk so much about. It’s a consensus as broad as the republic, as deep as the Grand Canyon, and it is this: We should have an ever more generous welfare state and not pay for it.”

Previously, Krugman has referred to Paul Ryan as a “con man” whose “genius, if you can all it that, was in realizing that there was a role … that of Honest, Serious Conservative … so Ryan did his best to impersonate a budget wonk,” as well as defining the “Paul Ryan method” as “scribble down some numbers and pretend you’re a budget wonk with a Serious plan.”

After a crushing electoral defeat and subsequent rout of budget hawks in Congress and the Senate, Ryan’s budget is never going to happen. Even as Krugman was lambasting Ryan’s proposals on air, the congressman’s colleagues were busy backing out of their anti-tax pledges and agreeing to support tax increases on the very wealthy. Ryan’s budget is politically toxic. So why is Krugman still flogging Ryan’s dead horse?

Well, as it turns out, that horse isn’t dead yet. Krugman famously coined the term “zombie economics” to describe bad ideas pushed by budget hawks and Tea Party conservatives who refuse to admit defeat after a decade of failed Republican economic policy. And though the Ryan budget is dead, its unholy ideological spawn survives. No one disputes that the deficit needs to be paid, but the emphasis on major cuts to entitlements now demanded by Republicans continues despite a preponderance of evidence that austerity has worsened the recession.

Point in case? A new study by the IMF found that budget cuts result in heavy drags on growth. What was the Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde advocating on CNN’s State of the Union show today? Spending cuts.

And even in the wake of a massive electoral victory, Democrats are still considering caving on entitlement reform, despite the risk of contractions in the economy and risking losing the debate on America’s social safety net.

So, I’m with Krugman on this one: those on the left need to try harder to debunk right-wing arguments on entitlement reform and reveal their mathematics are bankrupt. If bad ideas refuse to die, then we need to continue killing them when they pop back up.

“You need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even — or rather especially — if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution,” Krugman warned in a recent column.