By naming Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has endorsed what used to be known as “voodoo economics” — and restored that special brand of Republican superstition to the center of national debate. To take Ryan seriously, as all too many pundits and politicians insist we must, requires everyone to behave as if the plans he produced as House Budget Committee chairman represent a meaningful effort to improve the nation’s fiscal future. Sooner or later, however, real analysts will scrutinize the Ryan budget using honest math instead of humbug and magic.
In fact they already have done so — and that is where the myth of Ryan as a serious, scrupulous, and bold reformer begins to disintegrate.
As close observers know, the Wisconsin Congressman wants to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans even more sharply than George W. Bush, whose tax policies caused the bulk of the deficits that provoke so much righteous anger among Republicans like Ryan today. In Ryan’s budget, his tax cuts leave an enormous revenue gap, even with the absurdly destructive spending cuts he also proposes.
But according to Ryan, we need not worry that his plan will increase fiscal deficits as well as the deficits it will assuredly worsen in infrastructure, education, health care, environmental quality, consumer protection, and scientific research. He says that his tax cuts, which naturally favor the wealthiest Americans, will pay for themselves by creating a huge, rapid spurt of economic growth — which will result in higher tax revenues to cover the deficit.
Where have we heard this before? There was the original Reagan version, and then later the Bush version, which relied on a gimmick called “dynamic scoring” to create the same fake equation. Ryan’s version is updated slightly, claiming that if Congress removes enough loopholes and tax expenditures, the resulting spurt of growth will reach five percent, ten percent, or even more.