The Last Word | May 24, 2013
>>> we do not have an immediate debt crisis.
>> yes. you have entered the republican twilight zone . republicans are suddenly saying the national debt is not about to destroy life on this planet as we know it. even paul ryan agrees the debt is not crushing the life out of america. but the problem for republicans is they have insisted that the debt is the reason we need to do the kind of draconian budget cutting they have been proposing since president obama won the white house back for democrats. and look what happens to the conservative rationale for budget can you tell us when conservatives get more honest about the debt and deficit. a conservative columnist says about the new ryan budget , it sacrificed seriousness for seriousness by promising to reach budgetary balance, not over the long term as budgets 1.0 and 2.0 did, but in a ten year window. this is not going to happen, and more importantly there's no reason why it needs to happen. modest deficits are perfectly compatible with fiscal responsibility. talk about singing a new tune. and the conservative think tank , the american enterprise institute asks why does the budget need to balance in ten years? debt reduction doesn't require balance, just that the economy is growing faster than the debt, while the plan does put the debt to gdp ratio on a downward trajectory, it probably doesn't need to be quite as steep. ezra klein , this is a big deal , and you're here on this show to prove it is a big deal . you would never come out this late if this wasn't a huge deal.
>> absolutely not.
>> this is huge. the debt is the reason we have to do all these terrible things to medicare , which we republicans really love. it is just the debt is forcing us to do it. there's no rationale.
>> if you read paul ryan 's budget , and i have read every iteration, the first ten pages of the budgets is the same, this is a very apocalyptic, mad max scenario about the kind of debt crisis america faces. a crisis which the currency is completely devalued. we print and print money , inflation races up, financial markets collapse. it is compared to that where block granting, repealing obama care, voucherizing medicare , doing all of the things he does, in comparison to the debt crisis, all of that is fine, moderate, it is just a necessary painful medicine for a deep disease. if we don't have a debt crisis though, if the whole thing is not about deficit reduction but about making radical conservative reforms to the government, nobody likes it. that's what paul ryan found out in the first 10, 12, 15 years of his career when he didn't have the deficit reduction thing and pushed social security privatization and unfunded prescription drug benefit. nobody wanted the big conservative performance. it is only when he became the budget guy and cloaked them in deficit reduction that they took things like voucherizing medicare seriously.
>> if you go back to the bob dole era in the senate, he was a reasonable republican, then considered a conservative republican , who was glad that we had a system called medicare and glad we had a system called social security , and he was concerned about its long term financing. he may have wanted social security and medicare to be less generous than democrats wanted it to be, but that was the size of the difference. i believe what you have is paul ryan philosophically is opposed to the existence of medicare and social security . and he could never say that. instead of making a philosophical point, he wanted to make it an accounting discussion. because of accounting problems, we have to do this.
>> i think this is key to this. the debt operates under a weird set of rules in washington, that reporters and everybody else, reporters are able to openly cheer for deficit reduction, simpson-bowles, and they could never openly clear for obama care or the ryan budget . and the debt also --
>> hopes for a grand bargain were dashed.
>> yes, the same thing, it is unexamined on some level. secondarily, if you say deficit reduction, the partisan are leeched out. we are talking about whether it will work to balance the budget . if along the way 35 million become uninsured, that's sad but we don't talk about it because cbo didn't mention it in the score. that's the great trick of paul ryan to recognize if you only talk about budget deficit , where does your budget put the deficit 20, 30 years from now, the amount of things you sneak in under that cloak that you can never put into the conversation in a serious way in normal times is tremendous. that's the central political innovation of his career.
>> the favorite thing in the accounting discussion is compare the government to a family, saying you couldn't -- well, families do run debt, they cannot afford to buy their houses for cash, so they have a thing called a mortgage, which is the national debt of the family in effect. they try to oversimplify everything in this, but is there some break through in this point of republicans saying you know what, the debt isn't such a serious problem?
>> there's no break through. i think it is a big deal that john boehner and others can't uphold this that the debt crisis is coming now or soon. if you go through what he said further, he said it is looming and coming. this is always the thing, with this spring of deficit hawk , there's always in some future the great crisis we need to fear. those that have said have been wrong, two years ago was supposed to be then. at least they're backing off it being so soon. that's eroding the underlying nature of the argument.
>> does this help explain why they're doing nothing, the debt isn't a big deal ?
>> they a sequester, what more do they need.
>> ezra klein gets the last word.