Occupy Paul Ryan
House Republicans are trying to answer OWS protesters and Democrats at the same time.
Of course, that’s just what Democrats want the supercommittee to do. That’s what they have in common with the Occupiers. As Ryan finished, the committee’s meeting was about halfway done, with CBO Director Doug Elmendorf taking all varieties of leading questions. When I got there, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., was prodding him about the inequality report, and about the GOP’s line that 47 percent of people don’t pay income taxes.
“They don't owe anything because they haven't made anything, right?” asked Clyburn.
Elmendorf managed to maintain complete and total mathematic disinterest. Sen. John Kerry tried to get him to endorse a “$3 trillion to $4 trillion” package of tax increases and spending cuts—conveniently enough, that was what Democrats were offering behind the scenes. What if the top tax rate rose from 35 percent to 39.6 percent? Sure, Ryan had just said it would save on only 8 percent of the projected deficit. Wouldn’t that be worth it?
“In our estimate,” said Elmendorf, “the negative effect of a larger debt would be larger than the positive effects of the tax rates.”
This was about as much as Democrats could hope for: Paul Ryan and Doug Elemendorf admitted that taxing the wealthy a little more would reduce the deficit. Of course, Democrats have been stacking up quotes and admissions like this for years, and proving totally unable to force a discussion about higher taxes or inequality. The only positive sounds they were hearing from committee Republicans—especially freshman Sens. Rob Portman and Pat Toomey—were about some closing of loopholes and lowering of rates. This was stuff that House Republicans had never been open to.
But there was an Occupier in the crowd. After Rep. Dave Camp finished speaking, she got up and walked right behind Elmendorf to give a short, awkward lecture.
“It’s very clear, the American people want you to tax the rich and end the war. That’s how we fix the deficit. All this obfuscation with percentages of GDP—that’s just trying to confuse the issue.”
She kept talking, repeating those basic points, for about 30 seconds. It took that long for Capitol police to pull her out of the room. She went easily, but not quietly.
“I represent the 99 percent,” she said. The door swung shut.
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.