On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told moderator Chuck Todd that he “feels great” about his decision to retire from Congress after the current term.
Todd tried to ask hard questions – about Trump (Ryan claims they’ve worked well together); about whether Congress should pass a law guaranteeing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller can’t be fired by Trump (not necessary, Ryan says, because Trump won’t fire him); about things that Ryan had hoped to accomplish but didn’t (he got almost everything on that list through the House, so blame the Senate, Ryan said); and about why he’s leaving in his prime (it’s about spending time with his kids before they grow up and fly the coop, Ryan said, and in no way even slightly about the awkwardness of the Trump era or the fear that the Democrats might take over the House and take away his speaker’s gavel).
Todd tried to ask tough questions but failed to discommode Ryan even slightly. Ryan is smart, nimble and a talented and unflappable communicator. I can’t recall seeing anyone really flustering him.
But oh, did I wish that somehow New York Times columnist (and economist and Nobel laureate) Paul Krugman had been the one asking the questions.
Krugman’s column reacting to the news that Ryan was departing called Ryan a “flimflam” man, a term Krugman has used consistently for about six years to describe Ryan and Ryanism.
What’s the flimflam? According to Krugman, I gather, the Ryan flimflam is to use scary debt and deficit numbers to justify big cuts to (or cuts in the future growth of) federal spending on things that help the poor and middle-class – especially the big entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and Obamacare — but then use all the savings, and more, to provide tax cuts to the wealthy so you end up with no improvement (or actual backward movement) in restraining the debt picture and the same thing (no progress) in reducing the gap between rich and poor, after taxes and entitlements.
Krugman has laid out this analysis of Ryanism several times over the years, with heavy reliance on his favorite word (“flimflam”) to describe it.
Here’s the full Krugman farewell to the flimflam man piece from last week, and here (just to back up Krugman’s boast that he’s been on this case for years) a 2010 rendition of it from Krugman’s column headlined just “The Flimflam Man.”
Krugman and Ryan are both very smart. But, as Ryan prepares to go home, wouldn’t it be great to watch and listen to them hash the whole thing out together.