This short article is consistent with what Krugman and others have said about Paul Ryan, and I suspect it is right:
That may sound a bit strange, since so many stories about Ryan emphasize how serious and wonky he is, and insist that, unlike most politicians, he’s actually willing to talk in detail about the policies he’s advocating. Yet the reality of Ryan’s approach is actually very different. His tax plan, for instance, calls for trillions of dollars in tax cuts (heavily weighted, of course, toward high-income earners), but also claims to be revenue-neutral, since Ryan says that the tax cuts will be offset by eliminating loopholes and tax subsidies. But when it comes to detailing exactly what loopholes and subsidies he wants to get rid of, Ryan clams up—just as Romney has done with his tax plan. This is politically astute, since eliminating the tax benefits that have a substantive budget impact would mean eliminating things voters love, like the mortgage-tax deduction. But it’s a far cry from being honest and tough-minded.I was quite surprised to read Will Saletan's enthusiasm for Ryan at Slate over the weekend, and the New Yorker article finds it difficult to believe too:
Similarly, while Ryan has been reasonably upfront about his plans for Social Security (which he wants to privatize) and Medicare (which he wants to turn into a defined-contribution, rather than a defined-benefit, plan), he has been both substantively and rhetorically obfuscatory when it comes to the way his budget cuts would, over time, radically shrink the federal government, and effectively make it impossible for the government to do most of what it does today. As the Congressional Budget Office analysis of Ryan’s budget makes clear, Ryan’s plan would mean that by 2050, all of the government’s discretionary spending (including the defense budget) would account for less than four per cent of G.D.P. Since defense spending in the postwar era has never been less than three per cent of G.D.P., and since Romney has said during the campaign that he doesn’t want defense spending to be below four per cent of G.D.P., this means that the only way for Ryan’s numbers to work would be to effectively eliminate nearly all non-defense discretionary spending, including not just much of the social safety net but infrastructure spending, R. & D. investment, federal support for education, air-traffic control, regulatory and public safety spending, and so on. This would be, needless to say, a radical remaking of the federal government. Indeed, as I wrote in a column earlier this year, with the exception of support for health care and retirement, it would basically return the federal government to something like its nineteenth-century role—and early nineteenth-century at that.
Good luck getting Ryan (let alone Romney) to admit this to you.
Ryan has been able to pull off this bait-and-switch game, and win the hearts of many Washington pundits, because his earnest, wonky manner makes it seem as if he’s a hard-nosed pragmatist who’s just listening to what the numbers tell him. (In Slate yesterday, Will Saletan, in a column extolling Romney’s choice, wrote that while he would be voting for Obama this time around, he could easily imagine voting for Ryan in 2016, which is an utterly incoherent position, something like voting for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barry Goldwater in 1964.) But Ryan is not a pragmatist; he is an ideologue.