Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Does Paul Ryan Know What’s in His Budget?


If the news media had to work for a living, this is what they would all be asking right now. The reason is simple. The projections the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) made for Representative Ryan’s budget imply that he literally wants to shut down the federal government.

His budget implies that after three decades the federal government will have no money to spend on health research, education, highways, airports, and other infrastructure, the Food and Drug Administration and most other activities that we associate with the federal government. His budget has money for Social Security, Medicare and other health programs and the Defense Department. That’s it.

This is not a vicious anti-Ryan attack coming from hyper-partisan Democrats. This is what the analysis of his budget by the non-partisan CBO shows. It’s right there in the fifth row of Table 2.

The table shows that in 2040, Representative Ryan would allot an amount equal to 4.75 percent of GDP to all these other areas of government including defense spending. By 2050, Ryan’s allocation for these areas, including defense, falls to 3.75 percent of GDP.

The defense budget is currently a bit over 4.0 percent of GDP. Ryan has indicated that he would like to maintain or even increase this level of spending. The arithmetic is then straightforward. In 2040, Ryan would leave less than 0.75 percent of GDP for areas of spending that currently require more than five times this amount. In 2050, all these areas of spending would literally have to be zeroed out as defense spending will take up every cent and more that Ryan has left in his budget.

It is important to understand that CBO tried to accurately present the implications of the budget that Representative Ryan gave them. CBO works for Congress. These are career civil servants. They cannot be easily fired, but if CBO’s staff deliberately misrepresented a budget proposal from a powerful member of Congress like Paul Ryan, that is the sort of thing that could get them put out on the street.

The way CBO would typically analyze a proposal is that they would sit down with Representative Ryan and his staff and determine as closely as possible the outlines of the budget he is proposing. They would then produce projections which would be shown to Ryan and his staff to ensure that they had accurately represented his proposed budget. CBO would only publish a document with these projections after Representative Ryan and his staff had a chance to review them and agreed that they had accurately represented his proposal.

This means that there can be no accident here. CBO did not blindside Representative Ryan with a half-baked analysis they did in the middle of the night. We can safely assume that the projections from CBO do in fact represent the budget proposal as presented to them by Representative Ryan and his staff.

This leaves the obvious question. Is he serious? Does Representative Ryan really think it is a good idea to end the federal government’s role in building and maintaining infrastructure, in financing education, in funding basic research in health care and other areas, in maintaining our national parks, federal courts, the FBI? His budget says that this is what he thinks, since these services will not be provided for free (FBI agents expect to get paid), but it is difficult to believe that a politician running for national office would really want to eliminate most of the government.

Anyhow, this is the most basic question that reporters should be asking Representative Ryan now that Governor Romney has selected him as his vice presidential candidate. We know that they all have to run stories about his high school friends and his college courses, but the public has a right to know where he stands on the policy issues that he has put at the center of his political agenda.

If reporters do their job, they have a simple question to put to Mr. Ryan. “Your budget would put an end to everything the government does, except for Social Security, health care and defense. Is this really what you want to do?”

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This column originally appeared in Yahoo Finance.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”