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Think Again: The Ryan Budget Show, Part 2

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A year ago I wrote a column here -- and another in The Nation -- addressing the confusing phenomenon of the odd love being shown by allegedly liberal and moderate pundits for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his shockingly regressive, budget-busting tax and spending plans. Here a few highlights:

The New York Times's David Brooks pronounced that the document "set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. ... this budget tackles just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts. ... Paul Ryan has grasped reality with both hands. He's forcing everybody else to do the same."

Chris Licht, executive producer of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" with Joe Scarborough, said in Scarborough's earpiece: "I'm in love." The New York Times's Andrew Ross Sorkin, a guest on the show, responded: "Give the man credit for putting out a plan, when no one else would, frankly." And Mika Brzezinski, who is supposed to be the liberal on the program, told Rep. Ryan, "I've always said, I really like him."

Beneath the headline "Good Plan!" followed by the adjectives "brave, radical, and smart," Slate's Jacob Weisberg granted that Democrats were "within their rights to point out the negative effects of Ryan's proposed cuts on future retirees, working families, and the poor," along with the fact that Rep. Ryan "was not specific about many of his cuts," and was full of "sleight-of-hand tricks" and would not actually come close to eliminating the deficit in the coming decade, "leaving $400 billion in annual deficits as far as the eye can see."

The New York Times's Joe Nocera was even "disheartened" to "read about the Democrats' gleeful reaction to the [special election] victory in New York" that turned on Rep. Ryan's budget. The budget was so wonderful, you see, that Democrats were supposed to lie down and die for it.

Almost all of these pundits found themselves deeply humiliated when experts had a chance to actually examine the Ryan budget and discover just how unrealistic its assumptions were and how out of line its likely results were when compared to the rhetoric employed to defend it.

Some of them apparently learned their lesson and have kept quiet this time. But not many. So we are about to repeat the entire exercise, and almost certainly with the same result, given how little has changed.

Rep. Ryan himself has noticed this, albeit in a backhanded way: "I feel like it's Groundhog Day, except it's April." And he said of President Obama's comments, "He essentially said the same thing last year" (abusing, for political reasons, one of the greatest movies of all time).

Why he should be surprised, however, is an odd question. As the conservative New York Times pundit and Ryan admirer Ross Douthat could not help pointing out, "The new House Republican budget looks a lot like last year's House Republican budget."

Like yours truly, Paul Krugman finds "the continuing defense of Paul Ryan is a remarkable phenomenon," given the fact that his policy proposals are all about redistributing income upward and make no serious effort to curb debt. Should anyone doubt the truth of the latter claim, they might take a look at the data compiled by the Tax Policy Center: Rep. Ryan's proposals, if enacted, would reduce revenue by more than 2 percent of GDP in 2023, leading to far worse deficits than anything currently contemplated in any Democratic or presidential legislation.

It's not hard to see why.

To continue reading, click over to the Center for American Progress.