Paul Ryan, we were all told when he was selected, was a wonk; his selection meant that we were going to have a big ideas debate. And yet his vice-presidential speech was anything but, and what substance he did include was blasted by the fact checkers.
Sort of the way another Republican running mate was blasted for inaccuracies in her convention speech four years ago. Remember how she bragged about opposing the bridge to nowhere, only to have it be revealed that she had first supported it?
OK. Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin. He is, after all, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and he certainly knows federal public policy issues far better than the Sage of Wasilla ever has.
And yet Ryan’s reputation for true wonkishness seems to be vastly overstated. He’s less a wonk than a policy naif’s idea of a wonk – just enough “baselines” and “percent of GDP” and charts to make it all look nice, but very little under the hood. As Paul Krugman said recently:
Look, Ryan hasn’t “crunched the numbers”; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense. He asserts that he can cut taxes without net loss of revenue by closing unspecified loopholes; he asserts that he can cut discretionary spending to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge, without saying how; he asserts that he can convert Medicare to a voucher system, with much lower spending than now projected, without even a hint of how this is supposed to work. This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.
Krugman is concerned in that post with how Ryan dupes self-proclaimed budget hawks, but Ryan is duping Republicans, too.