WaPo Fact-Checker: Ryan Budget Plan 'Dubious,' 'Questionable' and 'Fishy'

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Washington Post Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler takes close look at Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal and finds it wanting:

First of all, his fancy presentation stacks the deck a bit. His budget presentation shows a scary-looking graph depicting an ocean of red stretching out into the future. The graph is titled, "We are in a Spending-Driven Debt Crisis" and says it is based on "CBO's Alternative Fiscal Scenario." But then when you actually look at one of CBO papers that outlines this scenario, it turns out that the scary scenario is also based on taxes being too low, not just spending being too high.

In fact, taxes are a big part of the problem. The CBO paper assumes, among other things, the Bush era tax cuts are extended forever (as Ryan proposes to do), the alternative minimum tax that increasingly snares middle-income Americas is indexed for inflation (Ryan says he will deal with this problem) and tax law evolves so that tax revenues remain at 19 percent of GDP (as Ryan proposes to do.)

...a large part of the ocean of red comes from the revenue side of the equation, not just the spending side, as Ryan implies.

Ryan also claims that his proposal has the imprimatur of the Congressional Budget Office....

This seriously overstates the case.

Yes, CBO has produced a letter in which it plugged various data, plans and scenarios provided by Ryan's staff into its budget database.... this document largely reflects the scenarios that Ryan has concocted....

...[The CBO] said that although under Ryan's plan debt would shrink relative to the size of the economy, Medicare beneficiaries "would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the current program," payments to doctors would shrink dramatically, states would have to pay substantially more for Medicaid and spending for programs other than Social Security and health programs "would be reduced far below historical levels relative to GDP."...

Indeed, the spending cuts proposed for the nonsecurity discretionary budget seem absurdly low. Obama's budget would bring such spending to the lowest level since the Eisenhower administration -- about 2.8 percent of GDP in 2016 -- and that seemed unrealistic. But Ryan would bring it to about 2 percent of GDP by 2016, giving Americans a bare-bones government they have not experienced since before the Great Depression.

Mysteriously, though Ryan relies on the CBO to vouch for his plan, he appears to ignore CBO estimates that a repeal of the health care law would lead to an increase in the deficit. Instead, a substantial part of his claimed deficit reduction -- $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years -- comes from repealing the health care law. Where do those numbers come from? Ryan does not explain, and his spokesman did not respond to a query....

We have only scratched the surface, but a pattern is emerging. As with President Obama's budget, the Ryan budget plan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures. The ideas may be bold, but the budget presentation falls short of his claim that he is getting rid of budget gimmicks.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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