M.D. Harmon’s cheerleading for Republican fiscal proposals displays what has become a depressingly familiar tactic among conservative commentators. (“Say the GOP captures Congress Nov. 2, then what?” Aug. 13)

Writing about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Road map for America’s future,” Harmon says, “The CBO concluded the Road Map would” followed by a list of wonderful results which appear to have been verified by the Congressional Budget Office.

In fact, the quotation in question is not to be found in the CBO letter. The quote is from conservative columnist Fred Barnes, who in turn appears to have simply copied it word-for-word from the House Republican website.

Quoting the House Republicans’ self-serving (and dubious) version of the CBO conclusions as if one is quoting the CBO itself is either careless, or worse, a cheap way to score debating points.

It gives readers the impression that the CBO actually said what Barnes and Harmon wish they had said, and Harmon owes readers an apology for this exercise in what Paul Krugman rightly labeled “flim-flam” advocacy.

Harmon should read Paul Krugman’s critique of the plan and actually respond to the argument, rather than dismiss it as the “usual left-wing” stuff.

Krugman’s point was straightforward: the CBO followed Ryan’s instructions and assumed that federal tax revenues would stay constant as a fraction of a growing GDP, despite tax cuts, while also enforcing Ryan’s (totally unrealistic) “plan” in which all discretionary domestic spending is fixed in nominal terms for the next decade; on these premises, and independent of everything else in the plan, it is a foregone conclusion that the deficit will fall.

Voila: tax cuts now, without budgetary pain. This is in no sense a realistic test of the full proposal, but Ryan and boosters like Harmon continue to pretend that the CBO has “concluded” something meaningful that supports the plan as a whole.

It didn’t.


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