Jonathan Chait

Why You Can't Negotiate With Paul Ryan

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Paul Ryan is going to vote against the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan. because Ryan has gained iconic status among Republicans on fiscal policy, this dooms the proposal.

His opposition shouldn't come as a surprise. Ryan's record is mostly (but not consistently) anti-government, consistently opposed to to downward redistribution of income, and absolutely rock-solid consistent against anything that reduces the deficit. Ryan favored all the Bush tax cuts and Medicare benefit, favors the unpaid-for permanent extension of those tax cuts, and opposed the Affordable Care Act. The fact that Bowles-Simpson builds upon the Affordable Care Act is, in fact, the basis for Ryan's opposition:

Ryan and Hensarling say that there are many good things about the Bowles-Simpson plan, but complained that its health care reforms conflicted with plans by House Republicans to try to repeal aspects of Obama’s health care reform plan passed earlier this year.

This is why it's so difficult to negotiate with Paul Ryan. The Affordable Care Act is a serious attempt to reduce medical inflation, which is the largest driver of the long-term federal budget crisis. It may fail, but if it does, it will be because opponents in Congress managed to hamper its cost-saving devices.

Ryan, like many conservatives, prefers to reside in an alternate universe in which the Affordable Care Act is not a budget saver but  a massive drain on the federal budget (like, say, the prescription drug entitlement he supported.) The Bowles-Simpson commission examined the issue and sensibly concluded that building up the cost-saving devices in the PPACA would save money, and tearing them down would cost money. Ryan can't accept that. You can negotiate with somebody who has different preferences than you do. But negotiating with somebody who inhabits a different reality is very difficult.

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