When interviewed by Fox News’ Britt Hume last Tuesday, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was asked when the Romney budget plan would balance the nation’s budget. Ryan first tried to evade the question, but when pressed admitted that he didn’t know, “We haven’t run the numbers”.
Media Matters’ sums up this situation: “The bottom line is that, by Ryan’s admission, the Romney campaign is promoting a budget plan despite not knowing what it actually accomplishes.”
Media Matters brings up several points:
1. Mitt Romney has been telling folks that, if elected, he intends to balance the federal budget by the end of his second term, or shortly thereafter. But according to Ryan, they don’t know when Romney’s plan will balance the budget. If Ryan is right, what has Romney been basing his claim on?
2. “The narrative that Ryan has cultivated among the press is that he’s a budget wonk who understands fiscal issues and is allergic to deficits (this despite having voted for all the Bush-era policies that saddled us with high debt and ballooning deficits). Embracing the Romney budget and then saying that he doesn’t know when it will balance because the campaign “hasn’t run the numbers” runs counter to his reputation as a Serous Fiscal Hawk.
3. The Romney campaign argues their budget will cut spending to 20% of GDP by 2016. That’s unlikely enough, but they’ve also announced that cuts to Medicare are off the table. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post calls Romney’s stated goal of balancing the budget in 8-10 years “a fantasy, and it will never happen.” Ryan’s remarks during the Fox interview would seem to confirm that.
4. “How can you claim to have a budget and also to have not “run the numbers”? Isn’t that all a budget is? Numbers that have been run?”
To read the Media Matter post or view a clip of the Fox News interview, click here.
The Washington Post’s Matt Miller also wrote about that interview. His post is titled Recognizing Paul Ryan’s “tell” when he is trying to avoid something. (Miller explains: In poker, a “tell” is a physical giveaway that lets you know someone is lying about his/her hand. In politics, it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth he/she doesn’t want to admit or to avoid saying something against self-interest.)
Miller states, “Ryan (R.-Wis) tried to cloak himself in his supposed ‘wonky-ness’ to sidestep two simple questions from Hume: When does Mitt Romney’s budget reach balance, and when does Ryan’s own budget plan do the same? Ryan pirouetted because Hume’s queries threatened to expose his famed “fiscal conservatism” as a fraud.”
Hume started with a simple question: The budget plan that you’re now supporting would get to balance when?
“Since Ryan knows that Romney’s bare sketch of a plan never reaches balance, he stumbles momentarily before trying to move the conversation to his comfortable talking points about Romney’s goal of reducing spending to historic norms as a share of gross domestic product."
"But Hume grows impatient. He practically cuts Ryan off. "
" I get that,” Hume says, “But what about balance?”
“You can see Ryan flinch. He doesn’t know, he says. Why not? “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” he says, recovering, “because we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.”
They didn’t run the numbers on their budget plan? Wow. Romney has not done what a fiscally conservative leader would do.
And Ryan’s remark “I don’t want to get wonky on you” is Ryan’s “tell”—an evasive maneuver. “He’s betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press the point.”
“Ryan then adds that “the plan that we’ve offered in the House balances the budget.” But he immediately stops short of saying when—you see his eyes dart to the right at that moment, his next tell—because that would mean admitting it reaches balance in the 2030’s. And Ryan wants to get through this interview without saying that, because he knows it doesn’t sound good.”
Click here to read the rest of Miller’s op-ed.