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Right-Wing Media Embrace Ryan’s SOTU Response — But Economists Disagree

Right-wing media have embraced Rep. Paul Ryan’s GOP State of the Union response as a “candid, adult-like conversation with the American people” and a “Home Run.” But economists have disagreed with several of the claims made by Ryan in his speech, including that the stimulus “failed” and that the health care reform law does not reduce the deficit.

Right-Wing Media Embrace Ryan’s Speech

Hoft Calls Ryan’s Speech A “Home Run!” In a January 25 Gateway Pundit post, Jim Hoft called Ryan’s speech a “Home Run” and stated, “Let’s face it. Ryan is presidential.” [Gateway Pundit, 1/25/11, emphasis in original]

Luntz: “Paul Ryan Seems To Be The Star.” On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Frank Luntz conducted a panel discussion on the president’s State of the Union address and Ryan’s response. After several of the panelists reacted positively to Ryan’s speech, Luntz declared, “Barack Obama was the focus, but Paul Ryan seems to be the star.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/26/11]

Perino: Ryan “Focused On The Thing That Americans Are Caring About Most Right Now”: Jobs And Cutting Spending. On Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Dana Perino stated that Ryan’s speech “focused on the thing that Americans are caring about most right now, which is how do we create more jobs and how do we cut more spending?” Perino further stated that Ryan’s and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s speeches “focused like a laser beam on that.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/26/11]

Rove Calls Ryan’s Speech A “Candid, Adult-Like Conversation With The American People.” On America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Karl Rove stated that Ryan’s speech “was an effective response” and a “candid, adult-like conversation with the American people focused on one issue: what this deficit and debt and spending is going to do to our country if we don’t stop.” Rove further stated that Ryan made “moral argument for why it is important for us to limit the size of government, to reign in the spending and deficits.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/26/11]

Hemmer: Ryan Set “Solid, Serious Tone, Necessary For The Nations [Sic] Moment. … America Could Afford More Like Him.” In a January 25 tweet, Fox News host Bill Hemmer stated: “Paul Ryan … Solid, serious, tone, necessary for the nations [sic] moment.” In a separate tweet, Hemmer stated that Ryan “[is] not afraid to sweat the small stuff, the detail … America could afford more like him.” [Bill Hemmer Twitter feed, 1/25/11, 1/25/11]

But Economists Disagree With Ryan’s Claim That Stimulus “Failed”

Ryan Claims That The Stimulus “Failed.” From Ryan’s speech:

RYAN: The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies – an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. [Ryan speech as prepared for delivery, 1/25/11]

Economists: “The Effects Of The Fiscal Stimulus” On Economy “Appear Very Substantial.” A recent study by Alan Blinder, the president of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Mark Zandi, the co-founder of Moody’s, simulated the “macroeconomic effects of the government’s total policy response” to the recent economic downturn and found that “the effects of the fiscal stimulus alone appear very substantial, raising 2010 real GDP by about 3.4%, holding the unemployment rate about 1½ percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls.” Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, numerous economists surveyed have agreed that the stimulus boosted the economy. [Blinder and Zandi, “How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End,” 7/27/10; Media Matters, 9/26/10]

Economists Disagree With Ryan’s Suggestion That Health Care Law Does Not Decrease Deficit

Ryan Suggests That That Health Care Law Does Not Decrease Deficit. From Ryan’s speech:

Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage. Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the President’s law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy. [Ryan speech as prepared for delivery, 1/25/11]

CBO Director Tells Deficit Commission That Health Care Reform Slightly Improves Budget Outlook. As The Washington Post noted on July 1, CBO director Doug Elmendorf said during a June 30 presentation that the health care reform bill “did not substantially diminish” the long-term deficit problem, but that it “made a dent”:

“Growth in spending on health-care programs remains the central fiscal challenge,” CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf said in a presentation to Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission. “In CBO’s judgment, the health-care legislation enacted earlier this year made a dent in the problem, but did not substantially diminish that challenge.” Although more starkly stated, CBO’s position has not changed since the health-care legislation was approved. The new forecast simply incorporates CBO’s cost estimates from that time, which predicted that the plan to expand coverage, raise taxes and cut Medicare spending would reduce deficits by about $140 billion over the next decade and by more than $1 trillion in the decade after. “Slowing the rate of health care cost growth is the single most important action we can take to reduce our long-term fiscal shortfall,” White House budget director Peter Orszag said in a statement. “The report confirms that the enactment and successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a key step toward a healthier fiscal future.” [The Washington Post, 7/1/10]

CBO Budget Outlook Says Health Care Reform Law Will “Reduce Budget Deficits Over The 2010-2019 Period And In Subsequent Years.” CBO’s June 30 long-term budget outlook states that the health care reform law “is expected to increase federal spending in the next 10 years and for most of the following decade. By 2030, however, that legislation will slightly reduce federal spending for health care if all of its provisions are fully implemented, CBO projects.” CBO noted in a footnote that although the law — which will reduce the number of uninsured by 32 million by 2019 — will increase federal spending on health care in the next two decades, it will still reduce budget deficits:

If all of its provisions are carried out, the legislation will also increase federal revenues and reduce budget deficits over the 2010-2019 period and in subsequent years, according to estimates by CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. [CBO, 6/30/10]

CBO: In Long-Term, Health Care Reform “Slow[s] The Accumulation Of Debt Considerably.” While cautioning that long-term estimates of health care spending are uncertain, the CBO budget outlook stated that if the health care reform bill is implemented as written, it “increase[s] projected revenues, particularly in the 2030s and beyond, thus slowing the accumulation of debt considerably.” [CBO, 6/30/10]

Economists Criticize Ryan’s Comparison Of U.S. To Greece And Ireland

Krugman: Ryan Response “As Bad As You Might Expect.” In a January 25 blog post, Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman wrote that Ryan’s speech “was as bad as you might expect” and included “[s]ome cooked statistics about federal spending.” Krugman further highlighted Ryan’s “curious assertion” comparing the United States to Greece and Ireland. From Krugman’s post:

And then there was this curious assertion:

Just take a look at what’s happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn’t act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody. Greece maybe fits that description. But if you’d read anything about the euro crisis — like this article — you’d know that Ireland was running a budget surplus on the eve of the crisis, and had quite low debt. Its problems now have nothing to do with fiscal irresponsibility in the past; they’re the consequence of weak financial regulation and the government’s too-generous bank bailout. […] There was no sign of a crisis of confidence in the UK budget before the May election; the Conservative government chose to embark on austerity, it wasn’t forced into it. So I guess we’re supposed to take heed of what Ryan believes happened in Europe, never mind that it isn’t what actually happened. Remember, this is the GOP’s leading deep thinker these days. [The New York Times, 1/25/11]

Baker: Ryan’s Greece Comparison “Either Dishonest Or Reflected An Extraordinary Degree Of Economic Ignorance.” In a January 26 blog post, economist Dean Baker wrote that Ryan “suggested that the United States could be like Greece if it did not change its current budget path. This comparison was either dishonest or reflected an extraordinary degree of economic ignorance.” Baker then noted “three big reasons that the United States is very different from Greece”:

1) The United States has its own currency — this means that we can always buy our own debt. that could lead to inflation, but insolvency is not an issue. So the story of no one being willing to buy U.S. bonds is not even a theoretical possibility. Of course the people who actually have their money on the line are very willing to buy U.S. bonds, demanding an interest rate of just 3.4 percent on 10-year Treasury bonds. 2) The United States collect taxes. The OECD puts tax evasion in  Greece on the order of 35 percent. This of course enourages corruption in all aspects of Greek government. If the rich rip off the government by not paying the taxes they owe, why shouldn’t everyone else try to rip it off too? 3) The United States has a huge diversified economy. If you want to find an economic illiterate, look for someone who warns that the dollar will plummet in value if we don’t get our debt under control. if our dollar plummets in value ( e.g. 2 dollars = 1 euro, 3 yuan = 1 dollar), the U.S. would suddenly be hyper-competitive. We would buy nothing from the countries who rely on the U.S. market. And our exports would be wiping out competitors around the world. For this reason, China, Germany, Japan and everyone else would make sure that the dollar did not just plummet. This would not be the case with Greece if it did have its own currency. [Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Beat the Press blog, 1/26/11]
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