Calls Ezra Klein to mind: Is Matt Miller allowed to say these things?
In his new piece for the Washington Post, Miller describes Paul Ryan’s new budget plan, which is due for release next week.
Is Miller allowed to say these things? He kicks Ryan’s ass all over the town, telling valuable truths in the process:
MILLER (3/6/13): Ryan’s new budget, slated to be unveiled next week, will alter the debate in ways no one has prepared for.Is Miller allowed to say that? He certainly makes it look easy! Ryan’s budgets have all been duplicitous, phony, he says. He also says that these phony budgets “have managed to fool the press.”
To be sure, I expect Ryan’s new blueprint to be another exercise in faith-based budgeting, a duplicitous document that pretends once more that taxes don’t need to rise as the baby boomers retire and we double the number of people on Social Security and Medicare (though Ryan will quietly bank Obama’s recent tax hikes on top earners). It will thus rely on magic asterisks while ravaging government, save for programs serving seniors and defense.
But–and this a big “but”–Ryan’s plan will call for the budget to be balanced in 10 years.
This new goal is a game-changer. Until now, Ryan’s plans have been regressive, phony blueprints that also mocked all notions of prudence by not reaching balance for three decades. Though he managed to fool the press and even many arbiters of budget sanity into thinking otherwise, Ryan’s plans were never fiscally conservative.
Next week, Ryan’s plan will still be regressive and phony. But if early reports are correct, it will show on paper a path to balance in 10 years. No matter how magic the asterisks and specious the assumptions, the embrace of this goal will transform the debate.
Is Miller permitted to say such things? Paul Krugman has said the same things about Ryan for years. But it’s very helpful to see another respected figure telling the actual truth.
Because we’ve discussed Ezra Klein in the past few days, we couldn’t help thinking about the contrast. What’s wrong with hiring very young people to be your super-heroes? Let’s review the various ways Klein has described the sainted Ryan down through these formative years.
In February 2010, Klein had already attained a strangely high station in life. Concerning Saint Ryan, he fawned, bowed and scraped and massively pandered in the Sunday Washington Post:
KLEIN (2/7/10): I spent the first part of the week thinking about President Obama's proposal for next year's budget. It's a modest document meant to take current policy and nudge it forward and leftward while beginning the hard work of pushing the deficit downward. It makes its changes at the edge of the state, freezing growth here and expanding programs there.The boyish Ryan! Ezra was 25 at the time! At any rate, according to our gifted child, Paul Ryan's radicalism was "all too rare."
But I spent the latter part of the week thinking about the proposal from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) for what our budget should look like 60 years from now. Ryan's budget is a radical document that takes current policy and rolls a live grenade underneath it. Social Security? Ryan's adds private accounts. Medicaid? Ryan privatizes it. Medicare? Same thing. Health care? Ryan repeals the subsidy for employer-provided insurance, replacing it with a tax credit.
The boyish Ryan is a conservative darling and the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, but there's nothing conservative about this document. It does not respect, much less preserve, the status quo. But then, that's a point in Ryan's favor. The status quo does not deserve our respect. It is unsustainable. Left unchecked, it will bankrupt our country. On that, Ryan's radicalism is welcome, and all too rare. The size of his proposal is shocking, but it is proportionate to the size of our problem: According to the Congressional Budget Office, which examined a simplified version of his proposal, it would wipe out our projected long-term deficits.
Facing up to how he does this is a worthwhile exercise in understanding our budget problem...
Yes, that was one of the Ryan budgets which Miller describes as duplicitous, phony. Despite these minor problems, Klein was fawning, bowing and scraping. Young people, lacking fixed moral compasses, may sometimes engage in such conduct.
Fourteen months later, someone had informed young Klein that Ryan may not be all that. Even then, he seemed to feel that he had to say how much he liked Ryan as a person, along with “his policy-oriented approach to politics:”
KLEIN (4/12/11): Just over a year ago, I wrote a column praising Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap." I called its ambition "welcome, and all too rare." I said its dismissal of the status quo was "a point in its favor." When the inevitable backlash came, I defended Ryan against accusations that he was a fraud, and that technical mistakes in his tax projections should be taken as evidence of dishonesty. I also, for the record, like Ryan personally and appreciate his policy-oriented approach to politics.At this point, young Klein seemed to think that he got extra credit because he’d mistakenly fawned over Ryan one year before. He went on to describe a budget plan which was, in its essence, a vast public fraud. But for some reason, he still felt he had to start by saying how much he liked Ryan personally–Ryan, the man who was running this fraud. And he felt he had to praise “his policy-oriented approach.”
So I believe I have some credibility when I say that the budget Ryan released last week is not courageous or serious or significant. It's a joke, and a bad one.
That was a very strange column. Did Ezra Klein know who he was?
One year later, Klein returned to the question of Ryan. In 2011, he had essentially called him a fraud. (Although he liked him personally!) Now, in a very peculiar backslide, we returned to the Big Ryan Love.
You might want to have a bucket handy. As Obama v. Romney came down the stretch, Chuck-E was back in love:
KLEIN (10/11/12): What I learned debating Paul RyanIf we might paraphrase Ezra here: Kiss kiss kiss kiss-kiss! Meow!
In February 2010, I sat down to talk health-care policy with Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan wasn’t yet the lion of the right that he is today, but he had a reputation as an unusually wonkish legislator, and he didn’t disappoint. In the interview, he was clearly well-versed on the issues, fluent in both his ideas and the main critiques. He was also refreshingly willing to step off-message, as when he admitted that we’re always, constantly rationing health care—the question is simply how we ration health care.
In March, I interviewed Ryan again, this time about his criticisms of the Affordable Care Act. In July, we talked about his ideas for the economy.
Ryan was, for awhile, my favorite interview, as he was willing to do something most politicians weren’t: Have a free-ranging, substantive, on-the-record conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with him. As he rose through the ranks of the Republican Party, his press strategy changed, and he ended those interviews. Our most recent back-and-forth, which was over his Medicare plan, was conducted, at the insistence of his office, over the relative safety of e-mail.
The upshot is that, over the past few years, I’ve spent a good number of hours arguing policy with Ryan, and an even larger number of hours trying to understand his policies. So what have I learned?
First, he’s smart. This shouldn’t need to be said, but some liberals seem to think Ryan’s intelligence is some kind of facade...
Go ahead! Reread what the middle-aged Miller wrote for the Post today. This may help you understand why it’s a very bad idea to hire young journalists straight out of camp. As you consider all this weird back-and-forthing, you may understand why we don’t even assume that the clueless Republican legislator described in last Sunday's Post actually exists in this world.
Although he certainly might!
Ezra has a high IQ. He also has “verbal fluency.” But like many people of limited age, he has careered all over the map. He may not know who he is.
We stand by our list of the fallen, thinking they form a valuable warning. Who on earth is Ezra Klein? Does Ezra have any idea?