“My View” from the Aug. 14, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
Numbers can be cruel. They take away the soft, gauzy rhetoric that shrouds political platitudes and subject them to a hard-edged reality.
So it is for the Ryan budget. It was a document lengthy enough such that it — and he — automatically acquired gravitas.
Yet it was truly examined by precious few. And that is probably a good thing for Ryan. Because here’s the number that is perhaps the key to Ryan’s view of the future: 3.75 percent.
That number, according to his own analysis, is the percentage of GDP that the government by 2050 will spend on everything other than Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In other words, as both the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson and The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein point out, the money spent on education, unemployment insurance, food stamps, environmental protection, infrastructure investment, R&D through the NIH, the FDA, the FAA, the FBI, veterans benefits and, most notably, defense — all together can cost no more than 3.75 percent of GDP. So what’s the big deal?
Well, Romney says defense alone requires 4 percent of GDP — he’s pledged that. The way I was taught arithmetic, 4 is bigger than 3.75. That means that their own plans leave absolutely nothing — and I mean nothing — for these critical areas of government spending.
OK, let’s say they moderate their views and go to 3 percent on defense, leaving .75 percent for everything else. How much would that be? In today’s dollars, that would be $113 billion. So how much is that? Less than the annual budget authority of the Department of Education alone.
The point is, the Ryan budget simply doesn’t work. “Everything else,” from the Justice Department to the EPA, isn’t going to just shut down. The numbers they put in their budget just don’t add up.
As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If, as the Ryan budget dictates, they refuse to let revenues go above 19 percent of GDP and they refuse to realize that an aging population will require additional spending in Medicare and Social Security, then they will simply not produce a document that comports with reality.
So the Ryan budget — even with its “ending Medicare as we know it” — leaves us with deficits until sometime between 2030 and 2040; nothing left for anything other than Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and defense; and a tax plan that shifts more and more of the burden of all this onto the middle class.
This critique is not ideology — this is the simple arithmetic of the Ryan budget straight from the pages of his own document.
The more folks learn about the Romney-Ryan budget, the more folks will realize that it is about as reliable as the fiscal plan of the last person to preach this gospel: George W. Bush.
That’s “My View.”