JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 16, 2011
Paul Ryan has been saying of President Obama's budget, "What we have is $1.6 trillion in new tax increases, $8.7 trillion in new spending. He's going to be adding $13 trillion to the debt over the course of his budget." Glenn Kessler figures out where these numbers come from. It's staggeringly dishonest:
The problematic figure in Ryan's statement is the claim that the president proposed $8.7 trillion in new spending. In response to a question about how this number was obtained, the Committee staff provided a chart that showed that outlays would be frozen every year for the next 10 years at the 2012 level of $3.729 trillion.
Thus, while in 2021 Obama proposes to spend $5.697 trillion, the Committee would still be spending $3.729 trillion, for a difference of almost $2 trillion. Add up the difference for every year, over 10 years, and it amounts to nearly $8.7 trillion, which the committee calls "new spending."
In other words, the Committee assumed the president needs to freeze all spending, without adjustments for inflation or population growth, for 10 years. Moreover, it makes this assumption for all spending, even mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which need to be changed by law.
Whatever bit of optimism or stretching you find in the administration's budget, nothing comes within an order of magnitude of this kind of dishonesty.
Ryan's reputation as an honest policy wonk is a curious thing. It must owe itself to the total dearth of elected Republicans who can even halfway plausibly bullshit their way through some numbers.