Ryan watch: Have you seen this basic issue reported!


Paul Krugman attacks Ryan’s plan: In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman punches hard today against Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

Ryan’s latest plan was announced on March 20. Last Thursday, it passed the House on a largely party-line vote. (Ten Republicans voted no; no Democrats voted yes.)

Krugman says this is “surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.” Here’s his basic explanation of that remarkable charge:
KRUGMAN (4/2/12): And when I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the 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.
Krugman makes a very serious charge. He suggests that Ryan could never make his numbers work—but he only gets 800 words.

Question: Have you seen the New York Times attempt to review this basic topic in its news pages? Have you seen your biggest newspapers attempt to do basic reporting and basic analysis about this seminal topic?

No one could cover this topic in 800 words—and Krugman to trying to offer a larger perspective in today’s column. Have our biggest newspapers provided the basic background reporting?

For today, let’s ponder Krugman’s charge. According to Krugman, Ryan’s budget is “the most fraudulent budget in American history.” Even though this budget won't go into law, passage of this budget last week represents a “disturbing spectacle.”

That’s the charge. Tomorrow, we’ll review what the New York Times and the Washington Post have done in their news reporting about this seminal topic. Our question:

At this point, does the New York Times even pretend to cover topics like this?


  1. Ummm, Bob? I think everything Krugman said is pretty widely known. And known pretty soon after Ryan first proposed this budget plan a year ago. And widely rejected. That's why it was DOA then, and DOA now.

    But I guess on the new planet in which you live, if the New York Times hasn't "analyzed" it in exactly the way Bob Somerby thinks it should be analyzed, then nobody has and the poor, dumb public remains completely uninformed about it.

    1. Ummm, Anonymous? This is a new year, and a new budget. It may bear many similarities to last year's budget, it mayhaps even be identical, though I don't think so. However, it is the responsibility of the newspaper industry, as well as other groups in the "news" business, to report what is currently happening. Perhaps you are only familiar with what newspapers have been producing in the past 30 years, which has been more in the lines of presenting bafflegab, generating scandal where there is none (and wasting millions in taxpayer money), and the musings of some lunatic op-ed columnists, and so-called "political experts," otherwise known as pundits.

      Horace Feathers

    2. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      Mr. Somerby asks, "At this point, does the New York Times even pretend to cover topics like this?"

      Maybe he needs to hire a research assistant since a simple search found this news article from 4 days ago: "House Passes G.O.P. Budget Plan, Mostly Along Party Lines"


      There was also an editorial the same day; "A Cruel Budget"


      A news story, an editorial and and op-ed piece.

      Maybe Mr. Somerby can be a little more specific about the kind of coverage he expects about this legislation which is short on specifics and has no chance of becoming law any time soon.

    3. "... everything Krugman said is pretty widely known..." That's a pretty grandiose assumption on your part & there's a world of difference between what may be known & what's actually understood

    4. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      There was also an editorial on March 31: "Tax Fantasy"


      A blog posting: "House Passes Republican Budget Plan"


      And the proposed legislation was kicked around in the "Room for Debate" section where 5 "experts" debated the question: "The Ryan Budget: Policy or Just Politics?"


      One has to pause after reading Mr. Somerby's question "At this point, does the New York Times even pretend to cover topics like this?" and ask when Mr. Somerby stopped being a critic and assumed the role of internet crank?

    5. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Can anybody doubt Mr. Somerby has become the very definition of crank:

      "3. an unbalanced person who is overzealous in the advocacy of a private cause."


      I would add to the definition: "one who advocates for a cause when the facts don't support the case they're trying to make."

    6. It's looking that way, Real.

      And interesting to note that Somerby is quite selective when it comes to issues that he wants the media to sway public opinion on.

    7. You guys need to remember that Bob is mostly confining his critique here to the hard-copy Times. Blog posts and online editorials and panel commentary do not count. Even printed editorials rarely include "basic reporting and basic analysis."

    8. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      Obviously its 2012 not 2000.

      My editor is out to lunch.

    9. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      and obviously the comment of mine I'm referring to isn't here.

      I posted it twice and it was deleted twice after having been published.

      Isn't this an interesting development?

    10. Real Anonymous - I've complained twice in the last couple days when exactly the same thing happened to my posts, which are generally supportive of Somerby.

      Are you suggesting now that you are being targeted as well?

    11. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      "Are you suggesting now that you are being targeted as well?"

      The fact is the post disappeared twice after being published.

      Make of it what you will.

      We'll see if the third time sticks.

      Maybe Mr. Somerby will have something to say about it.

    12. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      It was deleted for the 3rd time AFTER being published.

      Should I feel targeted?

    13. It happened to me when I clicked the 'reply' button at the bottom of the set of posts I was attempting to reply to. When I clicked the less convenient reply button at the top, my comment did not disappear upon reloading the page.

      Considering the amount of vituperation directed towards Somerby that appears here quite regularly, I'd be surprised if you were being singled out.

      Unless of course, I'm being singled out as well. Which would suggest that only those who admire Bob and despise him most are being chosen for deletion. In that instance, perhaps it's only fair to delete your posts if mine are disappearing as well.

    14. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      Let me be clear, the post was published.

      I read it which is how I knew I made an error saying "2000 not 2012" when I meant "2012 not 2000". When I refreshed, the page the post was gone.

      This happened 3 times.

      It's interesting my other posts, which were published the same way, haven't been deleted.

    15. Another false equivalency for all you good readers out there. Let's say there is someone who feels a current issue is of vital importance, and that a daily publication should print much more about that issue. The publication does mention this particular issue, but not enough to make this person happy.

      Issue :: Publication
      Fox News :: The Daily Howler
      Taxes and Budgets :: The New York Times

      Another definition of "crank" would include the tenor of their contributions.

      One more data point on the missing posts here in the comment section. Some of the "Reply" buttons don't work with my Internet Explorer (seems to happen when the replies are nested), so I use Mozilla, now. But just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

    16. As I wrote above, Real A, the exact same thing happened to me. Published, refreshed, and the post disappeared.

      You may feel persecuted, but you are presuming the worst without cause.

      I have noticed as well, that I cannot use Firefox to post here at all - that I am limited to Chrome, and that even with Chrome, some of the reply buttons do not work.

    17. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 3:38 PM

      "You may feel persecuted, but you are presuming the worst without cause."

      I don't feel persecuted. I asked if I should feel targeted. I didn't say I did.

      The fact is that single post was deleted 3 times after publication when all my other posts remained.

      At the very least it raises an interesting question, no?

    18. Fascinating. It happened again. Now four times to me. I posted. Post published and upon refresh, it disappeared.

      Fortunately, I copied the body of my post and include it as follows:

      "I will answer your question with another question (see 'Yes, Minister' for technical details): Should *I* feel targeted?"

    19. I read the NYT piece on the Ryan budget and, at best, it gives a very superficial overview of the plan. I really don't understand some of the commenters on this site who wonder what more can be said about it.

      Besides, the Ryan budget has been endorsed by Romney. For that reason alone, it deserves more attention.

    20. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      "I read the NYT piece on the Ryan budget and, at best, it gives a very superficial overview of the plan."

      Yeah, a news article, a blog entry, an op-ed piece, at least two editorial opinions, and 5 experts debating is superficial coverage.

      Look, this plan has no chance of becoming law unless Romney beats Obama as well as the the Republicans capturing the senate and holding the house.

      How much time should we spend on it in March 2012?

      Mr. Somerby seems to think this is the most important piece of legislation while most others say its a political statement rather than a budget that could be passed given the situation as it exists today.

    21. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      "Besides, the Ryan budget has been endorsed by Romney."

      Romney says his tax and budget plans can't be scored because he doesn't know the specifics yet.

      He's asking us to buy a pig in a poke.

      Mr. Somerby seems to think these "plans" that are very short on specifics demand attention.

      Fine, maybe he can tell us what the specifics are when nobody else seems to be able to.

    22. "How much time should we spend on it in March 2012?"

      A lot more time in the non-opinion news pages. Preferably, a lengthy analysis piece that goes beyond the typical "he said/she said" stuff that you get in the news section.

      "Look, this plan has no chance of becoming law unless Romney beats Obama as well as the the Republicans capturing the senate and holding the house."

      Right. The Ryan budget is a blueprint for how the Republicans intend to govern if they take power. And I think the American people should be informed of the consequences should this scenario come to pass. That possibility makes the Ryan budget extremely important even if it has no chance of passing *this* Congressional session.

    23. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      "And I think the American people should be informed of the consequences should this scenario come to pass."

      Don't play the fool.

      There's plenty of info about the consequences of this plan, as much as we know about it, including in the pages of the Times.

      If you don't know about it, after all it is essentially the same plan as last year, don't blame the Times.

    24. Good grief, how fast did the word spread that Ryan was proposing turning Medicare into a voucher program?

      That alone made his plan DOA.

      And you are correct. Anybody who says they don't know that "consequence" because the NYT hasn't reported it in a way that suits them is indeed playing the fool.

    25. The NYT shouldn't report on it because the readers should know about it already? What happened to the paper of record?

    26. "That alone made his plan DOA."

      DOA or not, Obama is planning to make the Ryan budget a major campaign issue. Yet another reason why this budget is very significant and deserves more coverage.

      "And you are correct. Anybody who says they don't know that "consequence" because the NYT hasn't reported it in a way that suits them is indeed playing the fool."

      Huh? I never said that I didn't know about the consequences of the Ryan budget.

      I was referring to Americans, in general, and making the point that if they relied on the NYT news section for their information, as many do, they wouldn't know.

      So, next time, read what is actually written before calling anyone a fool.

  2. Krugman exaggerates when he says Ryan hasn't mentioned a single specific loophole he'd close. Five seconds via google produced this:

    The influential lawmaker would not get too deep into specifics about which deductions might be eliminated and which might be spared. He said he wants the tax-focused House Ways and Means Committee to work that out in public.

    But Ryan argued that popular deductions might not have to be eliminated for everybody -- just the high-income earners who "disproportionately" use them. He indicated a willingness to end the home mortgage interest deduction and other breaks for top earners.


  3. It's grand to know that, after giving the top .1% hundreds of thousands -- and in some cases -- millions in annual tax cuts, Ryan "indicated a willingness" to end the home mortgage deduction for "top earners".

    The latest figures I could find were near the height of the housing bubble -- 2006 -- when earners over $200K cost the Treasury around $17 billion a year in home mortgage deductions. But $200K is "middle-class" to Ryan Republicans, so figure the savings would like be in the $8-10 billion range, if that -- and assuming, of course, bubble era housing values.

    So, with a cut which Ryan is "willing" to consider -- not proposing, in contrast to his specific cuts to social programs -- that still leaves about $690 billion to account for, assuming the need to find $700 billion annually.

    But I'm sure he'll work it all out "in public", just like he did his budget cuts.

    1. How in the world can you end the home mortgage deduction for "top earners" and not everyone else?

    2. According to this Center for American Progress article:

      ...The mortgage interest deduction is closely associated with homeownership and, by extension, the American Dream. But as a $100 billion [annual] government spending program, it deserves as much scrutiny as any program of similar magnitude.

      ...The mortgage interest deduction helps millions of middle-class homeowners. But it helps wealthy families much more.

      If the purpose of the deduction is to encourage homeownership, one way to gauge its effectiveness is to see how well it targets the so-called marginal homebuyer, for whom a tax subsidy could mean the difference between being able or unable to afford a home purchase.

      It turns out the mortgage interest deduction is poorly targeted according to this criterion. Households with incomes between $40,000 and $75,000 receive, on average, $523 from the mortgage interest deduction. Households with incomes above $250,000 receive $5,459, or more than 10 times as much.

      This “upside-down effect” happens for two main reasons:

      ~~Wealthier individuals naturally tend to have more expensive homes and bigger mortgages, and therefore more deductible interest.

      ~~Tax deductions confer a bigger benefit on taxpayers in the highest income brackets. For a family in the 35 percent tax bracket, a $100 deduction is $35 less he owes the IRS at year’s end. That same $100 deduction is worth only $10 to the family in the lowest 10 percent bracket.

      In addition, the mortgage interest deduction is an “itemized” deduction. Most taxpayers, including most homeowners, claim the standard deduction instead because it is worth more to them. For millions of taxpayers, therefore, the mortgage interest deduction provides no added incentive to buy a home.

      ...There have been many proposals to reform or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, from eliminating it for second homes to limiting it to lower mortgage amounts. These and other proposals would help right the deduction’s “upside-down” effect.

      ...The The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recently proposed to transform the deduction into a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 12 percent of mortgage interest paid. That would give homeowners in all brackets the same tax savings that a household in the 12 percent bracket would receive from the current mortgage interest deduction.

      The commission also proposed to lower the debt cap for the deduction from its current level of $1.1 million to $500,000. Under the commission’s plan, there would be no credit for interest on home equity lines of credit or second-home mortgages.

  4. So like we have some righties here who are rightfully scared of anybody taking apart the shaky work their leaders always do. Nice work, Daily Howler.

  5. You should hear when Bob goes off about The Professors, and how they contribute nothing useful to progressive interests. He conveniently selects a handful that he considers lame (and even that's debatable). When confronted with a laundry list of The Professors who offer brilliant, cogent, and powerful critiques? Tumbleweeds from Bob.

    Also, while accusing the Times, and just about everyone else in sight, of being The Dumb, he himself routinely makes factual errors and never deigns to correct them. Recently, he said Obama is opposed to gay marriage. Categorically false. Still waiting for that correction [Tumbleweeds.]

    A crank indeed.

    1. According to this November 2, 2008 ABC News online article:

      Obama told MTV he believes marriage is "between a man and a woman" and that he is "not in favor of gay marriage."

      At the same time, Obama reiterated his opposition to Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which would eliminate a right to same-sex marriage that the state’s Supreme Court recently recognized.

      "I’ve stated my opposition to this. I think it’s unnecessary," Obama told MTV. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that’s not what America’s about."

      According to this March 30, 2012 Associated Press article:

      President Barack Obama could be caught in an election-year bind on gay marriage, wedged between the pressure of supporters who want him to back same-sex marriage and the political perils of igniting an explosive social issue in the midst of the campaign.

      Interviews with gay rights advocates and people close to Obama’s campaign suggest it is no longer a matter of if, but when the president publicly voices his support. But Obama backers are split over whether that will happen before the November elections....

      Confused in Bklyn, the Obama approach is to say just enough to any easily confused voters out there on one side of the issue so that they hear what they want to hear while, at the same time, not offending any of the easily confused voters on the other side of the issue whom might be listening in at the same time.

    2. When did Obama come out in favor of gay marriage? I must've missed that one. Last I heard Obama say squat about marriage was at Rick Warren's church during the 2008 campaign.

      Remember this one: “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.”

      Today, he claims his views are "evolving". What did I miss?

    3. Right. His views are "evolving." (OK, total political bullshit, I know...) If his views are "evolving," then he is no longer opposed to gay marriage. He has moved off of opposition.

    4. So you repeatedly call Somerby a crank and as proof cite his "categorical" falsehood that Obama is opposed to gay marriage.

      What correction would you have him make? That Obama is no longer opposed to gay marriage? Unless you have evidence stronger than Obama's use of the word "evolving", which is pretty much intentionally opaque and directionless lest Repubs hang it around his neck in time for the general, I'd say that Bob wasn't lying.

    5. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 8:53 PM

      "What correction would you have him make?"

      That there is a difference between a personal belief and what the constitution requires.

      If you haven't read about Obama wrestling with these issues then I suggest you look it up.

    6. Here's what Confused wrote:

      "Recently, [Somerby] said Obama is opposed to gay marriage. Categorically false. Still waiting for that correction."

      I challenged Confused, not having heard of Obama's categorical change in course.

      I am well aware of Obama's "wrestling", hence my quote about his views "evolving".

      What I fail to comprehend is how a politician's opaque "evolution" indicates a categorical repudiation of his former position.

      And now, Real A, you suggest that Bob's correction of his "lying" about Obama's position include the helpful information that there is a difference between personal belief and the constitution.

      Really? So in that difference you find Somerby lying?

      I for one don't know what Obama believes. He's never confided in me personally. I do know that the gay vote is a significant, generally liberal bloc, and that Obama is most certainly wrestling with his need for votes from that bloc.

      I think you've confused political gamesmanship with personal belief.

    7. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 9:40 PM

      "I challenged Confused, not having heard of Obama's categorical change in course."

      I'm not here to educate you nor debate your ignorance.

    8. Nasty.

      So what are you here for?

    9. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 9:57 PM


      No, its the truth.

      If you think all Obama has said about gay marriage is that he's against it on a personal level because of his religious beliefs then you really do need to educate yourself.

      Until then you're just another ingnorant person on the internet pretending he knows something.

      Maybe you want to blame the Times the way Mr. Somerby does.

    10. Go for it. Educate me.

      But don't misquote me.

      Where did I suggest that was all Obama said? What am I pretending to know?

      You inserted yourself into an exchange I was having with Confused. He called Somerby a liar and cited his "lie" about Obama's position on gay marriage. I asked for more information, having missed the change in course.

      I'm not being coy here. Obama politically can't afford to come out in favor of gay marriage before the election. Unless he can be convinced it won't hurt his chances.

      But wait. I get it now. You're a supporter. You know what's in his heart.

      But I'm still curious. Enlighten me. What am I pretending to know?

    11. The Real AnonymousApril 2, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      "But I'm still curious. Enlighten me. What am I pretending to know?"

      Don't make me repeat myself, it's boring.

      I'm going to allow you and Mr. Somerby both to wallow in your collective ignorance.

    12. Yes, it is pathetic that you won't even take the few minutes to search "obama gay marriage" and learn something before you speak.

      In case you are wondering, this is 2012. It's being called the "Information Age." Al Gore even coined the term "information superhighway" to describe the wealth of information that would be readily available to everyone with an Internet connection.

      Obama has long supported the rights of states to issue licenses and legalize "civil unions" between same-sex couples. He has also opposed GOP calls for a federal constitutional amendment that would overturn those state laws.

      It is also quite apparent that the LGBT community is quite pleased with that, and with Obama himself considering both the alternative, and the fact that he overturned "don't ask, don't tell" and the military ban on openly gay service men and women.

      In my opinion, it would be utter folly for him to make "gay marriage" an issue. He would gain absolutely nothing, and he would risk re-energizing social conservatives, especially moderate to conservative GOP women, who aren't especially pleased with Mitt Romney.

    13. So. The short form of your diatribe is as follows:

      Sherrlock, you ignorant bastard. You're completely wrong. Obama supports gay marriage "categorically".

      For proof, see his positions on states' rights to allow civil unions.

      It's just that he can't support gay marriage. That wouldn't be prudent.

      Am I close?

      Sheesh. Is this bizzarro world?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Bob wrote: Paul Krugman attacks Ryan’s plan: In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman punches hard today against Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

    Wouldn't readers be better informed if the New York Times had an economist who explained and analyzed Ryan's plan fairly and honestly, and who also explained an analyzed the pro's and con's of President Obama's budget and other possible approaches fairly and honestly. Is there no economist who can be trusted to present analyses in a non-partisan manner?

    1. I wouldn't be. Because like 99.9 percent of America, I don't subscribe to the New York Times, nor do I even read it regularly online, more often than every now and then.

      But I will note once again that if you think the Ryan budget plan hasn't been "explained and analyzed . . . fairly and honestly" then you obviously don't know much about how the Internet works.

    2. It's 99%, not 99.9% (Circulation of Sunday New York Times 1.3 million. Number of households 120 million)

      Aside from that quibble I agree with you Anon. It's striking that one can get better news coverage for free on the web than what our leading newspaper provides at considerable cost.

      BTW, can you recommend particular sites that would explain Ryan's plan? Also, I'm interested in this WSJ article Demand for U.S. Debt Is Not Limitless
      In 2011, the Fed purchased a stunning 61% of Treasury issuance. That can't last

      Can you recommend a site that would explain how the Federal Reserve works and what the implications are of the Fed buying large amounts of US debt. Thanks.

    3. No, David, that's not how it works, and that's not how it has ever worked. I can't point you to one magical Web site that will tell you everything you think you need to know.

      That's the beauty and the curse of both the Internet today and the First Amendment since the day it was written. We have all sorts of access to all sorts of information.

      Try this: go to your favorite search engine and type in "Paul Ryan budget plan." Lots of stuff will come up, both from the press and from other sources, ranging from academic sources to guys blogging in their mother's basement.

      Then use whatever critical thinking skills you have to sort through it all. It's really not that difficult if your brain synapses are firing.

      Then if you want to find out how the Federal Reserve system really works, do the same.

    4. Another part of the internet is discussion with other users at some sites. People will ask one another for help to find things, because the signal-to-noise ratio is often so low. Anon 08:45, you provided vitriol and noise.

      David, Beat the Press at cepr.net is an excellent site. Although it may be too leftist for your taste, there are a few commenters that give opposing views and alternate sites.