The New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait has a devastating critique of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, consisting entirely of:
Surprise! Under the new budget plan by the rising star that conservatives are flipping over, the rich would pay a lot less, the poor and middle class a lot more. I’d have never guessed.
The link is to a Citizens for Tax Justice (a liberal think tank) study, which issues a bunch of warnings about the dire consequences the Roadmap would entail for the poor while benefiting the rich (headline: “Federal Government Would Collect $2 Trillion Less Over a Decade and Yet Require Bottom 90 Percent to Pay Higher Taxes”).
What Chait doesn’t mention in his brief post is that these CTJ claims are about the effects of the Roadmap relative to the Obama administration’s proposed long-term budget, not relative to the status quo. So it amounts to Ryan would extend the Bush tax cuts for all while implementing a VAT, which would be regressive. Obama, on the other hand, would end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
So, given that this study is about the Roadmap vs. the Obama plan and not current policy, Chait just as easily could have written, “Surprise! Under the Obama budget plan, the government would soak the rich!” and left out that it would only do so relative to the Ryan plan.
But Chait and CTJ are missing something here, something important. The reason the Roadmap includes some tough measures like the VAT is that it produces a sustainable long-term budget. The Obama plan, by the administration’s own admission, does not. That might be something for Chait to consider before trying to frame the debate as a class war.