Paul Ryan's Blatant Lies About The B-S Commission
I've posted so many times before (here, here, here and here, for example) about the utter failure of the Bowles-Simpson commission -- or as I prefer to call it, the B-S commission -- that I had vowed not to do so again no matter how many times some misinformed or misguided politician, columnist, reporter, deficit-reduction-at-any-cost advocate, one of the commission's many apologists or one of its own members referred to it as a success.
But as far as I'm concerned I was given permission to abandon that vow by Paul Ryan when, during his acceptance speech for the GOP vice presidential nomination this past week, he didn't just misrepresent what the commission did but stated or implied total lies about it.
That calls for...or actually requires...a direct response to correct the record from a federal budget process wonk who's not a johnny-come-lately to the topic. I accept.
Let's start with the most basic fact of all: B-S did not succeed, it utterly failed. The required 14 members of the commission absolutely did not -- repeat, DID NOT -- agree to the deficit reduction plan proposed by the co-chairs. In fact, the commission didn't even vote on the plan. An informal poll plus the public statements of the members showed the co-chairs that they were 3 votes short. Rather than have their proposal formally voted down, Bowles and Simpson decided not to take a vote at all.
The second basic fact is that Paul Ryan -- the same Paul Ryan who excoriated the president for not supporting what the commission did not in fact recommend -- was one of the three most important members of the B-S commission who did not support the co-chairs' plan. Along with Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, Ryan, as chairman of the budget committee and the most influential Republican on fiscal issues in the House, was in the perfect position to implement the B-S commission recommendation.
But Ryan, Camp, and Hensarling all indicated that they did not support and would not vote for the co-chairs recommendation.
And Ryan, who could have used the B-S co-chairs' report as the basis for the fiscal 2013 congressional budget resolution when he drafted it several months after the commission went out of business, went in a totally different direction.
As reported in a recent story by John Aloysius Farrell and Nancy Cook in National Journal, here's what Ryan said about the co-chairs' proposal:
Indeed, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who served on the Simpson-Bowles commission, cast one of the pivotal “nays” on Dec. 3, 2010, that kept the proposal from being referred for debate and guaranteed a vote in Congress.
The domestic cuts were too little, Ryan said, and the defense cuts too large. “The revenue increases called for in this proposal are simply too high,” he wrote then, and “the fundamental weakness in the … proposal is its failure to structurally reform” Medicare and Medicaid into the premium-voucher system and block-grant programs embodied in the Ryan budget plan.
Here's how Ryan lied about the B-S commission in his acceptance speech. His exact words:
(The President) created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
Yes, the president created B-S. But that was only after 7 Republican senators who had co-sponsored legislation that would have established a Senate-created commission to deal with the deficit, voted against their own bill and prevented it from passing.
No, the commission did not come back with an urgent report. The two co-chairs proposed something but it failed to get the super majority that from the beginning was required for adoption.
And, again, the report would have gotten the needed super majority if Ryan, Camp, and Hensarling had supported it.
Ryan was correct in one thing: The president did thank the commission members for their efforts.
One final note: There is more than a little irony in the fact that Ryan is insinuating that the B-S report was approved by a majority and should have been accepted by the White House at the same time that Republicans have been using the filibuster to prevent the use of simple majorities in the Senate on everything else.