Bonus Debate Bamboozlement: Paul Ryan on Taxes

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 12 2012 1:56 AM

Bonus Debate Bamboozlement: Paul Ryan on Taxes

This was almost too banal for my five dubious claims roundup, but it bears repeating that Paul Ryan's description of the Romney/Ryan tax reform plan makes no more sense than any other description of it because the plan fundamentally doesn't make sense. Ryan said (not unreasonably) that you don't need to delve into specifics, you need to negotiate with congress. But these are his negotiating points:

— “don’t raise the deficit”
— “don’t raise taxes on the middle class”
— “don’t change the share paid by the wealthy”

The way you achieve those three don'ts simultaneously is pretty simple: Don't change the tax code. But Ryan insisted that this three-point plan for inaction could be achieved in the context of an across-the-board 20 percent rate cut. Since that's clearly impossible, he didn't try to explain how it might be true and instead just asserted that "six studies" have said that 2+2=5 but there are no such six studies. There's simply no getting around the fact that a revenue-neutral base-broadening tax reform that aims for large rate cuts is going to be a regressive shift in the tax burden. If the Romney campaign could ever be bothered to admit that this is what they're proposing, they might see that there's a reasonable defense of the idea on the merits as a pro-growth measure. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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