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Paul Ryan is wonky. You can tell this is so because he is frequently described this way by Very Important People. Like in this ABC news video. Or this Daily Beast column. Or in this NYT column. Wonkiness is supposedly one of Paul Ryan's great strengths. He is something like the GOP "budget guru" in the House of Representatives.
This is interesting because Paul Ryan has been asked questions about the budget since his weekend debut as Boy Wonder (here, I am picturing Adam West as Williard Mitt Romney). Ryan's wonkiness was, of course, front and center when answering a query from Brit Hume:
During a Fox News interview with Brit Hume, Paul Ryan insisted on talking about the “Romney plan” while Hume questioned him about the “Ryan Plan.”
Ryan repeated that he was now focused on the “Romney plan” to renew America.
When Hume questioned when the Romney budget would balance the federal budget, Ryan explained that it was unclear.
“I don’t know exactly when it balances, I don’t want to get wonky on you but we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan,” he said. “The plans we offer in the house balance the budget.”
Ryan's response is disappointing in that my understanding of wonkiness is that it has something to do with being familiar with the details of a technical subject. Not having run the numbers at all doesn't sound very wonky.
Asked later in the week about cuts to Medicare in his budget, he replied thusly:
First of all, those are in the baseline, he put those cuts in. Second of all, we voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly, including those cuts. I voted that way before the budget, I voted that way after the budget. So when you repeal all of Obamacare what you end up doing is that repeals that as well. In our budget we’ve restored a lot of that. It gets a little wonky but it was already in the baseline. We would never have done it in the first place. We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don’t think the president’s going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
Yes, it would seem that it "gets a little wonky" indeed. There's another definition of wonky, which is more along the lines of shaky or unreliable. Untrustworthy.
Ryan basically proposes three big things: slashing Medicaid, cutting taxes on corporations and high-income people, and replacing Medicare with a drastically less well funded voucher system. These concrete proposals would, taken together, actually increase the deficit for the first decade and beyond.
All the claims of major deficit reduction therefore rest on the magic asterisks. In that sense, this isn’t even a plan, it’s just a set of assertions.
Earlier this week, Genghis wrote a piece that wondered whether average Americans might actually like Ryan's radical vision upon being exposed to it. I have a different concern, which is that they will never actually understand it as such. The reason for this is the same as the reason Paul Ryan was ever considered for the GOP ticket: his celebrity status as a "budget guru" is based on a self-serving fiction that continues to be embraced by nearly everyone.