One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.Ryan has always been better at getting media attention than delivering policy ideas that make sense. According to Krugman, his “Roadmap for America’s Future” is no such thing. It's a smoke-and-mirrors structure that seems designed mainly to hide the fact he wants to cut taxes on the richest 5 percent of Americans in half, while raising them on everyone else -- all under the guise of deficit reduction. And, for good measure, replacing Medicare with a voucher plan in 2020 to allow the elderly to buy their own health insurance. Why would anyone take this stuff seriously?
Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense.