Paul Ryan, Numbers Guy?

by Timothy Noah | August 23, 2012

Speaking near Fort Bragg, N.C., Paul Ryan today blamed President Obama for the looming defense cuts in the budget “sequester” scheduled for Jan. 1—an axe, I should add, that is very unlikely to fall, because the GOP and the Democrats will almost certainly cut some sort of deal to forestall at least part of the dread recession-inducing “fiscal cliff.” (Though it must be said that the Congressional Budget Office’s projection for the economy should the sequester axe not fall is continuing high unemployment and very anemic economic growth, so you can’t say it makes a lot of economic difference either way.)

Anyway, Ryan said: “Defense spending is not half of all federal spending, but it’s half of the cuts approximately in the sequester. We disagreed with that then, and we disagree with it now.”

Can you guess what’s wrong with this statement? 

Give yourself a gold star if you said, “Defense spending is not half of all federal spending, but it’s more than half of all discretionary spending.” And discretionary spending was the only spending included in the sequester; entitlements, which is where the big non-defense spending lies, were excluded.

Why were they excluded, class? 

Well sure, Obama didn’t want to include them. But that’s only because the Republicans flat-out refused to balance entitlement cuts with tax increases. This is the obvious bipartisan bargain, and the GOP was not willing to make it. It was so not-willing-to-make it that it signed on to stupid automatic draconian cuts in discretionary spending, including stupid automatic draconian cuts to its beloved Pentagon. All so family income above $250,000 a year could continue to be taxed at 35 percent instead of 39.6 percent. The GOP traded away the nation’s defense to avoid a not-very-significant tax increase on the nation’s richest families. End of story.

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