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Sorry, Donald Trump Is Nothing Like Paul Ryan

Be prepared for a slew of silly pieces claiming that all Republicans are really just like Donald Trump. Because why not?


Whether you believe Paul Ryan is a squishy Republican unworthy of the nomination or you think he’s the sort of rational conservative voice that could save the GOP from doom, there’s one thing he most certainly isn’t: Donald Trump. So the idea that that “Donald Trump is just Paul Ryan on steroids,” as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog asserts today, is the kind of predictably lazy piece we should get used to for the foreseeable future. Every Republican is going to be Trump.

That’s not to say there are no similarities between the two. I mean, other than trade policy, immigration policy, entitlement reform, abortion, foreign affairs, free expression and markets; and other than their tone, temperament, presentation, focus and backgrounds, there’s probably some commonality we could ferret out. Of course, using that measurement a person could just easily argue that Trump’s plans have far in common with Hillary Clinton’s. It still doesn’t make them ideological twins.

Here is the comparison that allegedly makes Trump and Ryan the same person: they cut taxes. The billionaire wants to cut taxes by $7 trillion over the next eight years—a number I am certain was pulled from the rarified air of Trump Tower for no particular reason–with a promise to never cut Social Security, Medicare, or defense spending. And get this: Ryan also has a plan, this one pretty detailed (well, more detailed than any presidential candidate’s) to lower top tax rate across the board without cutting Social Security or Medicare for today’s seniors. Ryan also promises to cut the deficit.

Let’s back up a minute, though. How does Ryan think he could pull off his own slightly less unrealistic plan? Easy: with magic. Ryan’s first trick is to assume that his tax cuts wouldn’t cost a thing instead of the $5.7 trillion that the Tax Policy Center says they would, since he would supposedly close enough tax loopholes to pay for them all.

To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, “magic” is just economics that some people don’t understand. Or, in this case ignore. There’s a special disdain among liberals, especially the Krugmanite crowd, towards Ryan, whose economic assumptions regarding growth flies in the face of the core assumption of Wonkbloggers—namely that simplifying rates and cutting taxes will spur growth.

So, naturally, they hate the idea of “dynamic scoring,” which would require them to calculate the economic effects of lowering rates, which spurs economic growth. They will claim that this measurement is unreliable (though mostly they completely ignore it). Which is true. But not half as unreliable as the claims of the ideological liberal shops that columnists use to make their methodical-sounding arguments. You know, “the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center”—which is nonpartisan in the way the Heritage Foundation or any other conservative think tank is nonpartisan—is not only often very wrong, it’s highly ideological.

But back to Trump. Yes, his plan is unrealistic, which, on this issue at least, qualifies him to be a typical presidential candidate. For example, Hillary Clinton’s unworkable tax scheme aims to pay for an array of highly expensive policies with tax hikes on the rich, including closing “tax loopholes” like inversions (just like Trump!) and taxing carried interest income (just like Trump). However similar those two are, though, they’re hardly the same. But be prepared for a slew of silly pieces from liberals claiming that all Republicans are really just like Trump. Because why not?