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Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Paul Ryan

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Lies, as Mark Twain famously observed, come in three flavors. If he were around today, Paul Ryan would have inspired him to create a fourth category.

Everyone knows Paul Ryan is a liar. He's the guy who boasted about running a "two hour and 50-something" marathon, placing him on par with the guy who took 85th place in this year's Olympics marathon. Branded the GOP's "leading intellectual," policy wonk and budgetary expert, Ryan seems to be in love with getting things wrong, especially when it makes President Obama look bad. Whether he's talking about unemployment figures or the number of bankruptcies last year, Ryan has a nasty (and well-documented) habit of lying outright, by omission or with the creative application of numbers (not to be confused with arithmetic).

Many of these false figures he throws around would have catastrophic consequences when it comes to the things that matter most in our lives -- like the cost of college or how much a mortgage sets us back. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to take a stroll down Liar's Lane.

The Mortgage Interest Lie: The Romney-Ryan budget will make mortgages more expensive.

Rep. Ryan likes to claim -- incorrectly -- that he can give everyone in America a 20 percent tax cut without driving up the national debt by another $5 trillion. He will perform this mathematical miracle, he says, by eliminating "loopholes."

Sure, he could save $40 million by cutting tax loopholes for NASCAR track owners. He could save another $4 billion by closing the loophole for corporate jets. But if Rep. Ryan is really serious about cutting taxes by 20 percent (a big "if," given Governor Romney's flip-flop on this issue during the first presidential debate), one of the ways you get there is by gutting the mortgage interest deduction -- that time honored, tax-code sanctioned device whereby the 65 percent of the American people who own homes save significant tax dollars every year by deducting the interest they pay on their mortgages from their annual income.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that "gradually eliminating" the mortgage interest deduction will be saving homeowners some $215 billion by 2021. But that won't be the case if Ryan and Romney get into office and eliminate the mortgage deduction to pull off this $5 trillion magic trick.

Ryan has specifically stated that he would leave the mortgage interest deduction alone. But what happens if the Romney administration "realizes" (code for reneges on promise) that this little darling needs to be killed? Middle class home ownership will take a historic hit.

The Credit Rating Lie: Romney-Ryan will not improve it.

Rep. Ryan likes to blame President Obama for wrecking America's credit rating. Ryan has said, "It began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States. It ends with a downgraded America."

What he's referring to, of course, is the decision in August 2011 by Standard & Poor's to lower the nation's credit rating to AA+ due to "political brinksmanship" by Congressional Republicans -- including one Paul Ryan -- which the ratings agency said made "America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

Before the obstructionists starting destroying the fabric of our nation, the U.S. had a perfect credit rating. That made it cheap for the government to borrow, and that good credit trickled down through the economy (one of the only things that actually does trickle down) eventually making it cheaper for all of us to buy homes and get credit cards.

But Rep. Ryan's recklessness, and his willingness to risk national default simply to wrest a few more budget cuts from Senate Democrats and score a few political points against President Obama -- while, by the way, telling America's creditors, "Sorry, guys, we just don't feel like paying anymore" -- well, it totally backfired.

Ryan and his merry band of nay-sayers increased the government's cost of borrowing by $100 billion a year, according to a study by JPMorgan Chase's investment bank. That translated into higher costs for everyday things like car payments and student loans, which hurt everyone -- especially the middle class.

The Student Loan Lie: Romney-Ryan will not make college more affordable.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in August, a student asked Ryan a good question: "What are you going to do for the students of this campus, this state, and this wonderful country [to help them] with their debt?"

"We have to make sure your education dollars stretch farther than they have in the past" he replied.

That's a decent political answer, but a lie. As a Congressman, Mr. Ryan did the exact opposite. He voted against legislation this summer to keep student loan interest rates from doubling from their current 3.4 percent rate to a new rate of 6.8 percent. Furthermore, Ryan's famous budget plan includes slashing Pell grants to needy students. Want more? In 2010, Ryan fought new rules designed to protect students from predatory loans designed for for-profit colleges, a scheme that would saddle millions of students with debt for a lifetime without helping them learn the skills they need to get jobs.

Pro tip: laugh when Ryan talks about education.

The Debt Lie: Romney-Ryan will not unbury the middle class.

Ryan has been talking a lot about Obama the Grave Digger. It is a convenient fiction. Ryan says that under President Obama, middle class families have been ''buried by regulations, buried by taxes, buried by borrowing." It's a lie.

In reality, Americans today owe nearly one and a half billion dollars less on their credit cards than they did when President Obama took office, according to Politifact. Furthermore, the household debt rate -- debt as a percentage of a family's disposable income -- has declined every year of the Obama presidency.

What's more, Ryan has done his darnedest to increase consumer debt, not lower it. He voted against the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, with its common-sense protections to help consumers keep their credit card debts down. The CARD Act bars card issuers from increasing interest rates randomly and without notice, provides consumers longer lead times before rate increases take effect so they can seek out alternatives, limits gimmicks like moving the payment dates, which were used by card issuers to trick people into missing due dates and paying excessive fees and it mandates disclosures to help consumers understand how to reduce their debt.

Ryan claims he wants to "stop digging" the middle class into a deeper ditch of debt. But between his voting record and his tax and spending plans, it seems his ultimate objective is to bury them alive.

The Advocacy Lie: Romney-Ryan will not protect consumers.

When it comes to consumer protection, Ryan does his damnedest to sound like a populist, but he's not.

Ryan signed on to a Republican plan to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which many consider to be the centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank Act, created to protect consumers from fraud and predatory practices and promote financial literacy. Like his sponsor, Governor Romney, and his patrons (Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and their Wall Street colleagues) Ryan is a "pro-consumer means anti-business" kind of guy. So while Rep. Ryan might argue that he has been a friend to the American consumer by crusading to cut government spending, that argument is belied by his vigorous support for Mitt Romney's plan to gut the consumer bureau and replace it with "streamlined" regulations that favor Wall Street over regular people and allow financial predators to roam relatively unrestricted like "the good old days."

Unlike Governor Romney -- with whom each day is a new adventure -- Paul Ryan has remained consistent. His statements are often lies, and when his talk turns to statistics and numbers and the financial facts faced by everyday Americans, his lies expand past the realm of "damned lies" into Mark Twain's third category of exotic deception.

Pro tip: You can tell he's lying, because his lips are moving.