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Time Magazine Botches Hit Piece on Paul Ryan

10:55 AM, Apr 8, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Time magazine's Michael Grunwald writes a piece titled: "Profiles in Cowardice: How the Beltway Punditocracy Gets Paul Ryan's Plan Totally Wrong." It begins:

You may not like Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan, but you must admit that it's courageous. You simply must. By order of the Washington establishment, you may question whether Ryan's plan is sensible or humane or even remotely honest, but you have to confess that it is undeniably an extraordinary act of bravery, or else pundits will beat the confession out of you with swoony prose.

To New York Times columnist David Brooks, Ryan's 73-page budget outline — it's not an actual budget — is "the most comprehensive and courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes." Here at Time.com, Joe Klein wrote that it's "without question, an act of political courage," while Fareed Zakaria declared that "Ryan's plan is deeply flawed, but it is courageous." The Economist agreed:"Credit where credit is due; whatever you think of Paul Ryan's budget, it is politically gutsy." (See "The Ryan Budget: A Test of Character for Obama.")

This is just weird. Ryan is a conservative Republican from a conservative Republican district, a committee chairman in a conservative Republican caucus. He was reelected last year with 68% of the vote. Sorry, Joe, but I do question whether it was really courageous for him to propose huge tax cuts for the rich, squeeze health care for the poor, and promise that nobody over 55 — the heart of the conservative Republican base — will have to make any sacrifices. Honestly, does anyone think this week has been bad for Ryan's career?

Grunwald probably should have consulted the indispensable Wikipedia before writing that Ryan represents a "conservative Republican district"--one of the key "facts" Grunwald cites to prove Ryan has nothing to lose and everything to gain from his budget. According to Wikipedia, Ryan's district is so conservative that it voted for Barack Obama over John McCain 51.4% to 47.5% in 2008 after giving George W. Bush 53% of the vote in 2004.

According to the 2002 Almanac of American Politics, Ryan's district voted for Gore over Bush 49% to 47% and voted for Clinton over Dole 50% to 38%. Two years after that 12-point Democratic thumping, Paul Ryan won his first term as a congressman. 

But forget the facts. Who can dispute Grunwald's next (very original!) point that what would have been really courageous is if Ryan had embraced tax increases? You know, because Ryan thinks tax increases would hurt the economy, and it does take a really courageous politician to intentionally do damage to the economy.

(Hat tip: Michael Scherer)

Update: Time has corrected the factual error in its story. The errors of logic remain.

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