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Ryan Rips Krugman: 'Intellectually Lazy' and 'Bizarre' Attack

Congressman Paul Ryan disputes NY Times columnist's claims on taxes, spending, and Medicare.

7:30 PM, Aug 9, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Talking late this afternoon with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin blasted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for his "intellectualy lazy" attack on Ryan's fiscal "Roadmap." In his Friday column, Krugman called Ryan a "charlatan" and his plan to reform the welfare state and eliminate the debt a "fraud" that is "drenched in flimflam sauce." Ryan responded to Krugman in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the weekend, and elaborated on his criticisms of Krugman this afternooon.

Ryan Rips Krugman: 'Intellectually Lazy' and 'Bizarre' Attack

“I realize he's a columnist and not a journalist, yet he could have easily tried to have verified his claims with a phone call or an email,” Ryan said of Krugman. “Instead he went with his confusion and chose to impugn motives,” said Ryan, “which strikes me as a very intellectually lazy exercise or style.”

Krugman attacked Ryan for not having the Congressional Budget Office officially score how much revenue his Roadmap would generate. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning Brookings/Urban Institute project, showed that Ryan's tax reforms would not generate enough revenue to eliminate the deficit. But Ryan points out that it is not the CBO's role to score revenue--it's the job of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Krugman wrote on his blog on Saturday that "Ryan could have gotten JCT to do a 10-year estimate; it just wouldn’t go beyond that. And he chose not to get that 10-year estimate." Ryan says that's not true. “We asked Joint Tax to do it," Ryan told me. "They said they couldn’t. They don’t do them long-term outside the 10 year window. They couldn’t do it in the first 10 years because of just how busy they were.” Ryan says Krugman could have cleared this confusion up with a simple phone call. "Megan McArdle figured it out on her own," Ryan said, referring to a blog post by The Atlantic's business and economics editor.

When the tax committee declined his request, Ryan took his proposal to experts at the Treasury Department who said his plan would hit its revenue target. Ryan said that the Treasury Department's numbers may, in fact, be more accurate than the Tax Policy Center's analysis. "Nobody knows the answer to this, by the way, if TPC is right or if the data we got from Treasury was right," said Ryan, who thinks Treasury's numbers are "closer" to reality. "The point is this: we made a full effort to hit revenue targets. They may hit the revenue targets and TPC may be wrong."

Ryan said that if the Treasury Department's analysis lowballed the revenue needed, there are "plenty of different ways" you "can tweak the rates and the numbers" so the numbers add up. 

Ryan also responded to Krugman's claim that his Roadmap "would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population." The Tax Policy Center claims that compared to current law (with all Bush tax cuts expiring), Ryan's plan would reduce taxes for most Americans. But compared to current policy (extending the Bush tax cuts for most workers and patching the Alternative Minimum Tax every year), the Tax Policy Center says Americans earning between $20,000 and $200,000 per year would see their federal taxes increase 0.9 percent to 1.7 percent.

Ryan disputes the claim that his plan would raise taxes. The Roadmap would allow Americans to choose between filing income taxes under current tax laws or switching to a system that:

Simplifies tax rates to 10 percent on income up to $100,000 for joint filers, and $50,000 for single filers; and 25 percent on taxable income above these amounts. Also includes a generous standard deduction and personal exemption (totaling $39,000 for a family of four).  

His plan would also eliminate the 35 percent corporate tax and replace it with an 8.5 percent business consumption tax. So the question is whether Americans would be better off with an 8.5 percent business consumption tax than they would be with a 35 percent corporate tax.

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