A Question of Balance

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 13 2013 11:43 AM

A Question of Balance

163557735
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, joins with other members of the committee as he departs a press conference at the U.S. Capitol where he unveiled his budget plan on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

I lurked around the Hill yesterday, watching Rep. Paul Ryan unveil his somewhat new budget—balanced in 10 years!—and talking to Democrats about its contents. The story that came out of this is about the meaning of balance. Why did Ryan seek to hit that target, rather than explaining how much the average tax payer would pay, or get from government, to hit it?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Think back to the origins of this Ryan budget. Why does it balance in 10 years, not 25? Because back in January, at the House Republican retreat, it seemed like the sort of thing that could get the feral members in line. “This looks like a concession to the internal dynamics of the [Republican] conference,” says National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru. “It doesn’t make as much sense in the broader context of public opinion.”
Ponnuru should know; he was one of the speakers at that retreat. He’s happy with much of the new Ryan budget—“it’s great that they’re still standing for Medicare premium support”—but wonders whether they focused on the wrong numbers. Why be so specific about when the budget will balance, but not about how?
Advertisement

Well, one reason is to get headlines about how you're going to balance the budget. Every voter, theoretically, likes balancing the budget? But the rare credulous headlines have come from partisan news outlets have been accompanied by incredulous interviews from people who largely agree with Ryan.

LARRY KUDLOW: You've got a 10-year balanced budget. How much of that comes from repealing-- Obamacare? What do you make on that?
PAUL RYAN: Well, some of it clearly does come from repealing Obamacare, because it's spending money that we haven't spent yet. It's programs that haven't been up and running yet that we can't afford, because they break the budget...
LARRY KUDLOW: But in terms of your budget, it -- if you don't get it this year, the likelihood of getting repealed this year is very, very, very low. Does it blow a hole in your 10-year budget?
PAUL RYAN: Sure, it blows a hole in your budget, because it's-- it calls for continuing the spending. But what is a budget? A budget is our vision for how we should fix this country's fiscal problems.

See how quickly he gets existential about it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Sports Nut

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 18 2014 1:34 PM Americans Fault Obama for Giving Them Exactly the Anti-ISIS Strategy They Want
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 18 2014 12:47 PM How One of the Most Prolific Known Forgers in Modern History Faked Great Works of Art
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Everyday That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 1:47 PM The Only 15 Netflix Hacks You’ll Ever Need
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 1:24 PM Can the Celebrities Whose Photos Were Stolen Really Sue Apple? It may be harder to prove “harm” than it seems.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.