Saturday, April 09, 2011

The budget deal

Way to go, Washington. Last December, they agreed to $800 billion of tax cuts, most of it poorly directed as stimulus. And now they have shown how tough and fiscally responsible they are by taking an immediate $38 billion out of the economy that will definitely cost jobs at a time when we are at 9% unemployment.

One party thinks 9% unemployment is just fine, the other party appears to believe that it is too low.

I've recently been using, and I hope not overusing, the phrase "Saint Augustine in reverse." Augustine famously asked for "chastity and continence, but not yet." Washington policymakers appear to believe that we should have chastity and continence now only - when they may be severely counterproductive given the state of the economy - not in the future, when they are actually needed to head off a budget disaster.

This applies to Paul "Ready for My Close-Up" Ryan as much as to anyone else. I've been relatively gentle with him so far, because I liked what the document said about tax expenditures (admittedly, a personal hobbyhorse) and because I think there is a legitimate debate to be had about what the healthcare sector should look like.

But, even leaving aside the ludicrous economic and budget projections, the guy wants to cut tax rates to 25%, he doesn't even name a single tax expenditure that he ostensibly would be willing to eliminate, and his healthcare plan, apart from the structural change with merits that depend on one's underlying views about markets versus public provision in the healthcare sector, amounts to (1) throwing the poor off the bus plus (2) expressing a wish that Congress in 10 years will decide to let private rather than government-borne healthcare costs grow.

UPDATE: Just one more bit about Ryan: the Tax Policy Center finds that the tax changes he does specify would lose $2.9 trillion over 10 years. It doesn't estimate the claimed base-broadening because the proposal "lacks sufficient detail for an estimate including those provisions."

Such a brave, brave man.

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