For years, Ryan has cultivated a reputation on both sides of the aisle as a paragon of decency, earnestness, and principle; that rare creature of D.C. who seems genuinely guided by good faith. To many in Washington — including no small number of reporters — Ryan’s support for Trump is not merely a political miscalculation, but a craven betrayal.
Ugh. Ryan is not, repeat not, a serious, honest man of principle who has tainted his brand by supporting Donald Trump. He has been an obvious fraud all along, at least to anyone who can do budget arithmetic. His budget proposals invariably contain three elements:
1. Huge tax cuts for the wealthy. 2. Savage cuts in aid to the poor. 3. Mystery meat – claims that he will raise trillions by closing unspecified tax loopholes and save trillions cutting unspecified discretionary spending.
Taking (1) and (2) together — that is, looking at the policies he actually specifies — his proposals have always increased the deficit, while transferring income from the have-nots to the haves. Only by invoking (3), which involves nothing but unsupported and implausible assertion, does he get to claim to reduce the deficit.
Yet he poses as an icon of fiscal probity. That is, he is, in his own way, every bit as much a fraud as The Donald.
So how has he been able to get away with this? The main answer is that he has been a huge beneficiary of false balance. The media narrative requires that there be serious, principled policy wonks on both sides of the aisle; Ryan has become the designated symbol of that supposed equivalence, even though actual budget experts have torn his proposals to shreds on repeated occasions.
And my guess is that the media will quickly forgive him for the Trump episode too. They need him for their bothsidesism. After all, it’s not as if there are any genuine honest policy wonks left in the party that nominated Donald Trump.