The Case Against The “Wonk” Narrative, Straight From The “Wonk's” Mouth

The press corps continues to be enamored of Congressman Paul Ryan, the budget and economic “wonk.” Just this morning, articles both the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times dropped casual references to Paul Ryan, “budget wonk.” All this despite Ryan's best efforts to prove it a misnomer. 

Last night on Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier asked the vice-presidential nominee why the Romney campaign refuses to release details regarding its tax plan and the deductions/loopholes it would eliminate to pay for massive, across-the-board tax cuts. Ryan said he couldn't give those details because they will be hammered out with Congress -- after the American people have voted to send Romney and Ryan to the White House.

BAIER: Why not be specific on the loopholes you'll eliminate and the deductions you'll eliminate to cut off that attack?

RYAN: Because what we don't want to do is just like they did with health care reform, where we cut some backroom deal -- what President Obama did in Harry Reid's office and then just give it to the country and then they can read what's in it later on. We want to go through a transparent process in Congress where we have a dialogue with the public -- what of these tax expenditures are important? What are broad based? We want to get rid of the corporate welfare, the crony capitalism stuff in the tax code, but we want Congress to participate in a transparent debate in front of the public eye so we can have a really good debate about how best to broaden the tax base and lower tax rates.

To sum up: you have to vote for Romney/Ryan before you get specifics, and that's completely different from health care reform, which was voted on before we got specifics.

Two weeks ago, the vice-presidential candidate admitted to Fox News' Brit Hume that he couldn't say when the Romney campaign's budget plan would balance because “we haven't run the numbers” -- which was surprising, given how much budget “wonks” love running numbers. And yet, late last week, the Washington Post ran an article on the Republican vice-presidential nominee's irrepressible wonkiness as demonstrated by Ryan's use of the term “baseline” during a conversation with reporters about the budget. “You can take the budget guru out of Washington, but you can't take Washington out of the budget guru,” observed the Post. As Dean Baker wryly put it: “Paul Ryan said 'baseline,' he must be smart.”

In the span of two weeks, Paul Ryan the “wonk” has said he doesn't know when his campaign's budget will balance because they haven't done the math, and he can't give tax details until after the election. So the question for the media now becomes: Why keep hyping Paul Ryan's wonkiness when he keeps giving you reasons not to?