Democrats like to complain that Republicans are the party of “no” and lack new ideas, so some were startled that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went out of his way to savage Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan for his "Roadmap for America's Future" plan, calling his proposals a "sham" and a "flimflam."
"The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future," Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, declared in his Thursday column.
Ryan's Roadmap is designed to boost prosperity, rather than impose austerity. Those 55 or older would remain in the current Medicare and Social Security programs. But for those younger than 55, benefits would gradually change. The retirement age would gradually increase, and the solvency of the programs would be protected. It would also offer a highly simplified tax code with just two rates and virtually no special deductions, credits, or exclusions.
Krugman charged that the Congressional Budget Office had based its positive evaluation of Ryan's proposals on erroneous assumptions. But Ryan isn't backing down in the face of Krugman's broadside.
A Ryan spokesman on Friday told Newsmax: “Paul Ryan's Roadmap is a long-term plan to save our entitlement programs from their imminent collapse, pay off our debt, and restart the American engine of growth and prosperity.
"In addition to putting forward the only plan, certified by the CBO, that solves our looming fiscal crisis, Ryan has also identified $1.3 trillion in specific spending cuts that could be enacted right now to rein in the explosive growth of government."
The spark that ignited the war of words between the GOP's rising star and Krugman was a front-page article in the Washington Post that credited Ryan for his creative thinking.
The newspaper cited the CBO's estimate that Ryan's proposals would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020. But Krugman suggested the newspaper had been duped.
"What you need to realize is that the CBO is the servant of members of Congress, which means that if a congressman asks it to analyze a plan under certain assumptions, it will do just that – no matter how unrealistic the assumptions may be," Krugman explained in a Times post on Friday.
Krugman's newfound skepticism about the reliability of CBO reporting struck some observers as an interesting development.
No such skepticism was evident in November, when the CBO issued a controversial estimate claiming that healthcare reform would reduce health-insurance premiums – a finding the president's own Medicare services agency debunked in April.
Krugman back then chided Republicans who didn't accept the CBO findings for having poor "reading comprehension."
"For what it's worth the CBO has now given the Senate bill a clean bill of, um, health on both its budget impact and its impact on families," Krugman pronounced, based on that CBO report.
Ryan's supporters say apparently Krugman doesn't trust CBO findings – except when he agrees with them.
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