Though he never deserved the reputation, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is known as a deficit hawk. And yet the tax cut bill he helped shepherd through Congress is projected to add at least $1.414 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade.
During a Wednesday morning appearance on NBC’s Today, Ryan was asked how he, as someone who is supposedly concerned about the deficit, can support a bill that will blow it up.
“I remember you in 2012 doing event in front of that deficit clock,” host Savannah Guthrie pointed out to him. “Are you saying that the growth you are going to get from this tax cut will will equal the amount it would cost on the deficit side, so that it’s a wash, so that you’re not adding to the deficit at all because of this?”
Ryan, in fact, is not saying that. But what he did say in response to Guthrie’s question is that the future is unknowable.
“Nobody knows the answer to that question, because that’s in the future,” Ryan began. “But what we do know is that this will increase economic growth.”
Ryan immediately pivoted to talking about how the tax cuts will impact people “living paycheck to paycheck,” pulled out his signature postcard to illustrate how simple filing taxes will allegedly be, and then finished his response by noting that “we gotta control our spending.”
This tax cut is going to cost 1.6 trillion dollars more to the deficit- are you saying that the growth we’re going to get from this tax cut will equal what we get from the deficit?
Speaker Ryan: "Nobody knows the answer to that question." pic.twitter.com/fCtWT8AQ3S
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 20, 2017
While it’s true that we can’t be 100 percent sure the sun will rise tomorrow, we can use our past experiences and brains to model the future. And even when the “economic growth” Ryan refers to is factored in, economic models indicate that the Republican tax cut bill will cost as much as $2.2 trillion over the next decade.
U-Penn's Penn-Wharton model, run by former Bush administration economist, forecasts GOP tax bill will increase national debt $1.9-$2.2-trillion by 2027 after incorporating "dynamic" estimates of economic growth effects
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) December 19, 2017
Ryan may not have wanted to come out and directly say it on NBC, but during an interview earlier this month with a libertarian radio host, he revealed what his real end game is — paying for the tax cuts by gutting Medicare and Medicaid.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan told host Ross Kaminsky, adding that health care entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid are “the big drivers of our debt.”
Gutting the safety net will be a tough sell — recent polling indicates that cuts to social welfare programs are even more unpopular than the tax cut bill, which is opposed by a majority of Americans.