Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Weekly Standard and Human Events Display Intellectual Dishonesty at their Finest. Updated

Usually I don't insert myself or use the first person in these blog posts but today I make a special exception because I am in some small way indirectly involved. Today, The Weekly Standard and Human Events, both conservative publications released a clip of Former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles praising Representative Paul Ryan, Governor Mitt Romney's newly-minted running mate. This meme passed quickly and was even picked up by the liberal Huffington Post. The clip includes Bowles remarking the following:
“Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing. ... He is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit just like we did, by $4 trillion. … The president as you remember, came out with a budget and I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97 to nothing."
This in and of itself would be a damning clip, if it were intellectually honest and played the whole of what Bowles was saying. But it is a misrepresentation of what Bowles said and I should know, because I was there. Bowles, the former President of the University of North Carolina System, was speaking at his Alma Mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for the annual Thomas W. Lambeth Lecture in Public Policy. For those who do not know, I am a proud Tar Heel and decided to drop in on this event to see what Bowles would say. On this evening, Bowles was invited to speak about the work he conducted on National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Bowles-Simpson Plan.

The segment in which Bowles discusses Representative Ryan comes at around the 35:40 mark of the video. It is true that Bowles does praise Paul Ryan in a number of aspects. However, he does remark that the Ryan Budget did two very different things than the Simpson-Bowles budget. First is that the Ryan budget does not cut defense, but actually increases the budget, whereas Simpson-Bowles does tackle defense. According to Bowles, this means that Representative Ryan had to make up for $1 trillion in cuts elsewhere in the budget. Second, is Simpson-Bowles uses 92 percent of new revenue to lower taxes to create three new tax brackets and eight percent of the money to actual deficit reduction whereas the Ryan Budget takes all of the money from the closing of loopholes and deductions and uses them to reduce rates, forcing Ryan to make another $100 Billion in cuts.

It is true that Bowles is critical of President at around the 41:00 mark of the lecture. However, he does say that the President did set up some triggers to slow the rate of growth. Also, is well known that Bowles and Former Senator Alan Simpson feel resentment that the President did not wholeheartedly adopt their plan so it is not any breaking revelation. Furthermore Bowles excoriates Congress for last year's debt ceiling debacle, and according to a New York Times article published this week, Representative Ryan worked to try and stall the "Grand Bargain" between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, joining with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his attempted obstructionism.

In addition, while Bowles may admire Paul Ryan, the love may not be mutual as Congressman Ryan was on the Simpson Bowles Commission and voted no on the plan, due to tax increases. Lastly, this week, Bowles criticized Governor Romney, Ryan's running mate, in an article saying his tax plan would not amount to real deficit reduction in an op-ed for the Washington Post. The idea that Bowles is a wayward Democrat who is somehow hitched completely to the Ryan wagon is a canard that deserves to be debunked thoroughly.

By the way, cool side note, in that video, yours truly asks Bowles a question at the 49:07 mark. And though this blog is not in the business of picking winners and losers, I make the exception by saying I am a proud student at UNC Chapel Hill, so GO HEELS!

Update: Bloomberg does a great service that I am not adept enough to do by showing the whole clip of Bowles' critique. In complete honesty and disclosure, when researching this blog, I had seen the link for this video that showed the whole clip, and I expected there to be an article, but I chose not to use it because I felt I could add a different contribution even if Bloomberg had not reported this, which they ably did. However, I still feel this blog post holds significant weight and it will stand with this update. I apologize for any impropriety.

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