Ryan watch: The background to Krugman’s column!


What, The Times report: Yesterday, we discussed Paul Krugman’s new column, which called Paul Ryan’s budget proposal a fraud. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/2/12.

According to Krugman, Ryan’s proposal is “the most fraudulent budget in American history.” This was Krugman’s explanation of that remarkable charge:
KRUGMAN (4/2/12): [T]he Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit—but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

And we’re talking about a lot of loophole-closing. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That’s the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)

So what are we to make of this proposal? Mr. Gleckman calls it a “mystery meat budget,” but he’s being unfair to mystery meat.
Would Ryan be able to close enough loopholes to yield $700 billion in revenue every year? Could he even come close?

By now, you’d think our major newspapers would have done some reporting on this topic. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

In fairness, the Washington Post did present this news report about a major congressional study of this general question. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service listed the size of all the tax breaks (tax loopholes, tax expenditures) on which Ryan might draw for new funds.

Those tax loopholes do cost the government more than $1 trillion per year. But as a realistic matter, how many of those loopholes could the Congress possibly close?

On a Saturday morning, on page A3, Lori Montgomery delivered the bad news in an informative news report:
MONTGOMERY (3/24/12): Just this week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a 2013 budget blueprint that would lower the top income tax rate paid by the wealthiest households from 35 percent to 25 percent by wiping out "tax shelters" and "lobbyists' loopholes."

Such a sharp reduction in rates is theoretically possible, the CRS report says. Indeed, if Congress threw out every tax break that benefits U.S. households, federal tax collections could surge by more than $1 trillion a year. If all that money were returned to taxpayers in the form of lower rates, there would be more than enough cash to meet the GOP rate target without driving budget deficits higher.

But very little of that cash comes from special-interest tax shelters, the report says, noting that 90 percent of the money is lost to just 20 tax breaks that benefit millions of American families, such as the child credit and provisions for medical care and retirement savings.

"It appears unlikely that a significant fraction of this potential revenue could be realized," says the report by CRS analysts Jane Gravelle and Thomas Hungerford.
Oops! Montgomery’s report includes more detail. In a more rational world, discussion of Ryan’s budget proposal would revolve around the information found in this report.

Montgomery’s report involves the info which lies behind Krugman’s column. But her report appeared on a Saturday morning, and it has generated little pundit discussion.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has done no news reporting on this topic. On March 23, Floyd Norris did offer this sprawling column in the paper’s Business Day section. Norris covered some of the same material treated in Montgomery’s report, although he didn’t mention the CRS report.

Just this Sunday, the Times published this editorial about Ryan’s budget. It includes the paper’s only reference to that congressional study.

But if you read the Times’ daily news reporting, you have seen no discussion of this very basic matter. You have seen no attempt to evaluate the claim that Republicans can “pay for” Ryan’s large tax cuts by wiping out tax loopholes.

On that same March 23, the Times did entertain us rubes with its standard assortment of silly piffle designed to pass for political news. Two examples:

The Times did publish this silly space-eater about political ads from past campaigns—political ads which didn’t get aired! It was accompanied by this front-page puddle of piddle—a report about the way Obama us currying favor by letting us know how much he loves Bo, his pet dog.

This is the type of stupid shit the New York Times pimps as political news. Just a guess: Very few of this newspaper’s readers understand the background to Krugman’s report. That isn’t how the Times rolls!

We live inside a very dumb political culture. Norris’ column contained a great deal of information. But people who read the Times’ news section may think they’re getting the day’s major news.

We’re sorry, but that isn’t so.

The Dowdism crept to their souls long ago. The Post hasn’t done enough on this topic. The Times has done that much less.


  1. "Meanwhile, the New York Times has done no news reporting on this topic."

    Gee, Bob. I plugged "Paul Ryan tax loopholes" into the ol' Google, and got 291,000 results. Then I clicked "News" and it gave me 291 groups of stories, with anywhere from a few hundered to a few thousand news stories in every group.

    And no what? Several of these stories came from the New York Times.

    I also discovered that the media is once again widely reporting Ryan's plan to replace Medicare with a voucher plan for those 55 and younger. That's what pretty much provoked voter outrage and killed it last year, and he's coming back with it again.

    So where is this paucity of information about the Ryan budget plan in general, or about the proposed tax loopholes in specific?

    Oh, I forgot. On Somerby's new planet, the fact that the New York Times hasn't covered it in exactly the way he thinks it should be covered means that nobody is covering it at all.

  2. Oh, I conflated two numbers. Let me correct. My intial Google search yielded only 180,000 results instead of 291,000, and 291 "news" groupings.

    I guess since I got that wrong in my haste, it means George Zimmerman is telling the truth.

    1. So, you found some hits for [search term] therefore Somerby is wrong and the NYT is doing a grand job covering budgetary matters?

      You realize that logic doesn't work, right?

      Instead of your useless ranting, please, point to some NYT news stories in which, for example, the CRS study findings are detailed and contrasted with Ryan's statements. That would be helpful.

      If you could do that it would show that NYT readers are being delivered the news, contrary to Somerby's assertions.

      Can you manage that? Or do you really, really think you're doing something valuable with your googling?

      As anyone who would like information in their paper would know, but perhaps you Anonymous, would not, it's hardly a matter of "exactly the way Somerby thinks it should be covered" -- Has the NYT, in print, discussed the recent CRS study, in detail? Show us where, Grand Googling Anonymous.

    2. Let me see if I understand this. You already know the CRS study, but you need the New York Times to tell you about it? Why? Are you too damn dumb to read the study and figure out for yourself what it means, unless the NYT leads you by the hand?

      And unless the NYT has "detailed and contrasted" the CRS study with Ryan's statement, nothing else counts?

      Oh, I get it. You don't need this explained to you. It's all those other dumb people who need it explained. I forgot that you are soooo smart.

    3. And by the way, "The Real Anonymous" presented a list in yesterday's thread showing how the NYT has covered the Ryan budget proposal every way till Sunday in every format available to them.

      You discounted that, as well as 180,000 hits on Google for "Paul Ryan tax loopholes" which seems to indicate that the very thing Somerby claims wasn't covered at all has been covered quite extensively, including by the NYT.

      Now you can do your own Google search and decide which of those 180,000 hits are really worthwhile and add light to the discussion. Surely, you can do that yourself.

      Or do you still want me to do your homework for you?

    4. You did not address the assertion, and very real possibility, that 180,000 hits on Google, as well as a few actual stories from the NYT, does not show that the NYT covered this story well.

      Why did you veer off to the odd question of whether Swan needed this information? Isn't the discussion about whether the NYT is doing it's job? Swan was saying that the statement of amount wasn't enough proof, that you needed proof of a quality article to support your argument. You strangely acted as if this meant that you would be doing him a favor, not that you needed to do it to create a convincing presentation.

    5. Well, I was trying to preserve at least a shred of the guy's dignity, but since you insist:

      "Tax Policy: Much Talk, Few Details," by Floyd Norris, March 22, New York Times.

      "Judge a Tax Plan by Its Loopholes," by James B. Stewart, March 23, New York Times.

      "The Careless House Budget," March 20, New York Times editorial.

      "Pink Slime Economics," by Paul Krugman, April 1, New York Times.

      "Obama Attacks GOP House Budget Plan," by Mark Lander, April 3, New York Times.

      "The Grilling Season," by Robert B. Semple, Jr., March 31, New York Times.

      "Tax Fantasy," March 31 New York Times editorial.

      "A Cruel Budget," March 29 New York Times editorial.

      "House Passes Budget Blueprint, Mostly on Party Lines," by Jonathan Weisman, March 29, New York Times.

      "House GOP Budget Plan Riles Some on the Right, and Democrats See a Campaign Issue," by Jonathan Weisman, March 22, New York Times.

      "The Limits of American Exceptionalism," by Simon Johnson, March 22, New York Times.

    6. FAIL.

      As anyone can see many of these, first of all, are editorials, not reporting.

      Second, which of the few that *are* news reports actually materially address the CRS report?

      Your "180,000" proved nothing of course. Your list does no better.

      Somerby beats you silly. The NYT has been inadequate on this, as so many other issues.

      Give up pretending otherwise, and just tell us the Times is "irrelevant" anyway. Who reads papers, right?

  3. What Bob does is show you how the sausage is made. He shows the ways in which seasoned professionals use tricks of grammar to tell their story when the facts don't support it. He shows how the mainstream media spread rumors and trivia to hide the absence of attribution. He shows how they pretend to be everymans, but are really hyperwealthy. He tries to lay out the tactics of how the big papers (NYT and Washington Post) push away from news and toward entertainment.

    This helps one to be a critical reader.

    Now it seems that some commenters here don't agree with some of Bob's specifics. That the subjects of his critiques are unfairly targeted. Okay. I hear what you're saying. But can I ask a question? Why all the vitriol? Often some other readers agree with Bob (it is a big Internet), and give supporting arguments. Wow, then it hits the fan! Insulting attacks, sometimes in all caps, with lots of exclamation points.

    Again, where is all of the hatred coming from?

    1. “That the subjects of his critiques are unfairly targeted. Okay. I hear what you're saying. But can I ask a question? Why all the vitriol? “

      >>>cant speak for any other commenter here and its been a couple weeks for me, but u just answered your own quesytion, for me anyway. . . . by way of example, your man tears dowds face off a couple weeks ago like a junk yard dog and youre appalled at getting some negative feedback? . . . oh darlings it just isnt done!

      “Again, where is all of the hatred coming from?”

      >>> bob somerby.

      i dont hear hatred coming from the commenters ive read. maybe youve picked up your guys projection habit. i dont hate him. hes nothing novel. hes not worth hatred but he deserves to be called out for his anti irish-catholic-american bigotry and possible right wing bias under the guise of him being a liberal.

    2. I'll cop to the fact that Somerby starts with the hate. I guess I just like iconoclasts.

      But don't fool yourself, the hate is there against Mr. Somerby, big time.

    3. Speaking only for myself, I am not operating out of "hate" as much as "disappointment."

      This blog used to be a good read, back when the old Bob Somerby was looking at and critiquing bull roar coming from both sides. Back before the new Bob Somerby got obsessively/compulsively fixated on MSNBC and the New York Times.

      Back in those good ol' days, the old Bob Somerby used to howl daily about how the press ignored the real issues in favor of the trivial (the number of buttons on a candidate's suit, windsurfing, a candidate's hair cuts).

      Back in those good ol' days, the old Bob Somerby used to howl daily about how the "media" would take anything that a candidate didn't say perfectly and run with it.

      That's the Bob Somerby I miss, not this new version who has become exactly that which he once howled against.

      Unfortunately, to quote "Brokeback Mountain," it's a hard habit to break. I keep hoping that the old Bob Somerby will return. But with each passing day, my hope grows faint.

  4. I am convinced by the posters here that The Howler went at least a little overboard on the premise of this post. As to the final comments, it may be the post 9-11, post Iraq era doesn't really offer in much in terms of really shocking nonsense as Whitewater, Gored days of old. So the Howler has to hit harder obvious knuckleheads like Dowd who no serious person even pays enough attention to to get outraged over.

    Still, we are in for a bumpy ride in the fall and I'm very much glad he's still here.