We live in fictitious times: Yesterday, with incomparable skill, we diagnosed a small minor problem:
Here it was: Everywhere we looked, journalists seemed to be offering different accounts of Paul Ryan’s position on taxes.
Some accounts were extremely vague. Some of the coherent accounts seemed to contradict the others. That brings us to today’s key question:
In his new budget plan, what has Ryan proposed for the marginal tax rate? If you read one account, you might think you know. If you read two accounts, you aren't sure!
Years ago, Michael Moore said we live in fictitious times. In recent weeks, we have said that most of our “journalism” is composed of imitations of life.
You can limn the metaphysics as you like. But yesterday, we kept hitting new accounts of a very basic matter: What is Paul Ryan’s proposal for the marginal tax rate?
Increasingly, Rachel strikes us as an undisguised joke. But here’s what we heard on her show:
MADDOW (3/12/13): Just like the old Paul Ryan budget, the new one comes with giant tax cuts for the richest people in the country. And just like last time, Mr. Ryan does not say how the government would make up for the trillions in lost revenue due to the tax cuts. Trust him, it’s magic.She didn’t specifically mention the marginal rate. But she sure made it sound like the top tax rate has been cut!
That said, we got the same impression when we read Dana Milbank:
MILBANK (3/13/13): Paul Ryan’s budget is an amazing and wondrous document.Milbank said it reduced tax rates. Tax rates, as in plural.
Not only does it balance the budget in 10 years while reducing tax rates, it also does so without any pain or suffering—or even breaking a sweat.
Has Ryan lowered the top tax rate? We got that same impression as we watched a panel discussion on Lawrence:
BERNSTEIN (3/12/13): And let me just get back to a point I made earlier. You see, they have to raise something like $7 trillion in revenue to offset their tax cuts. They can’t do that. Mathematically, it’s impossible.Jared Bernstein referred to gigantic tax cuts, but he never got specific. That said, when we read the editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post, the editors made a rather airy statement:
If Mitt Romney couldn’t make the math work, this math is twice as hard. So, really, interestingly, this is a plan to increase the budget deficit because they`ll never offset those tax cuts.
EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST (3/13/13): Mr. Ryan indulges the fantasy of an income tax code with only two marginal rates, 10 percent and 25 percent, but doesn’t specify the deductions and loopholes that would have to be eliminated to get there.Ryan “indulges the fantasy” of a 25-percent top rate? Does that mean that he has proposed such a rate? If so, why didn’t they just come out and say so?
Has Ryan proposed a top tax rate of 25 percent? That very same day, on the Post’s front page, Lori Montgomery seemed to make that statement without any obfuscation:
MONTGOMERY (3/13/13): Ryan also calls for an overhaul of the tax code, in which he would eliminate an array of tax breaks to finance a reduction in the top rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent, a goal Democrats say would reduce taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.That made it sound like Ryan has flatly proposed a top tax rate of 25 percent. That would be an amazing cut in the marginal tax rate.
Has Ryan actually made that proposal? If so, why can’t our overpaid pseudo-journalists just come out and say so? Perhaps the answer lurks in Kevin Drum’s post, the very first post we read about the new Ryan plan.
Drum actually quoted from Ryan’s plan. But check what Ryan’s plan says:
DRUM (3/12/13): Why does everyone keep asking Paul Ryan why his 2014 budget accepts the fiscal cliff tax increases instead of trying to repeal them? I mean, sure, technically he's working off a baseline that includes the increases, but here's his tax plan:According to Drum, Ryan’s plan says that he has “a goal” of cutting the marginal rate to 25 percent! According to Drum, there is no further detail in the whole 91 pages.
“Substantially lower tax rates for individuals, with a goal of achieving a top individual rate of 25 percent.”
There is, literally, no further detail about this in his 91-page document...
Is that correct? We have no idea. It used to be you could learn such things by reading newspapers or watching “news programs.” You didn’t have to waste your time reading the tax plan yourself!
Those days are long gone. Our journalism is imitation; it's pifflepoo all the way down.
If Ryan has proposed such a fuzzy “plan,” that fuzziness ought to be major news. But is that what the lad has proposed?
Because you live in fictitious times, people won’t bother to tell you. Explaining a basic matter like that is pretty much just for the squares.
Visit our incomparable archives: To see the New York Times fail to explain three times, you know what to do—just click here.