Almost 20 months ago, a friend told me that Paul Ryan was “the smartest man in DC on policy.” I took my friend at his word and looked for opportunities to see whether he’d showcase his policymaking abilities. It didn’t take long to get proof of his brilliance. I got that proof when I interviewed him about health care. Monday night, I watched Chris Matthews get schooled by Congressman Ryan about eliminating deficits while creating a prosperous economy.

Newsbusters’ Noel Sheppard transcribed the econ lesson in this post. I agree with Noel when he said that Matthews was asking gotcha questions in hopes of getting Congressman Ryan to say something to hang around Republicans’ necks this fall. That didn’t happen. Instead, Congressman Ryan schooled Matthews on how to reduce the deficit. Here’s the key exchange in the interview:

MATTHEWS: Name a major piece of the 1.4 trillion to 1.7 trillion. No, just take —

RYAN: OK.

MATTHEWS: — just take a chunk out that 1.4 trillion by getting rid of a big program or good expenditure that people now watching can understand.

RYAN: I would rescind the unspent stimulus funds. I would rescind all the TARP funds that aren’t spent. I would do a federal hiring freeze and pay freeze for the rest of the year. And I would go back and cut discretionary spending back to ’08 levels and freeze that spending going forward.

Now, you and I can get into a debate about Keynesian economics, whether it worked or didn’t. I don’t think it did. We increased domestic discretionary last year by 84 percent. I don’t think we should continue to build that kind of a base. Let`s go back and cut discretionary spending back to `08 levels.

MATTHEWS: OK.

RYAN: Rescind stimulus, rescind TARP and do a federal hiring and pay freeze. Those are just a few ideas that add up to $1.3 trillion right there.

Prior to this exchange, Matthews tried saying that Republicans just talked smart about reducing the deficit, implying that they weren’t serious about it. Here’s that exchange:

MATTHEWS: So, in other words, all this bitching about the deficit doesn’t mean squat, because you won’t do either, raise taxes or reduce spending.

RYAN: Let me answer it, then.

MATTHEWS: Neither one.

RYAN: This year, Congress isn’t even doing a budget, but, last year, when we did a budget, I brought a budget to the floor that specifically cut $4.8 trillion of spending out of the budget and paid for all of these tax cuts and debt reduction. Two months ago, we put out $1.3 trillion in very specifically listed and enumerated spending cuts. So, I can go on with you on cuts. I can show you all the kinds of cuts.

MATTHEWS: But that’s one-three hundredth (ph) of the deficit. That’s 0.3 of 1 percent you’ve talked about.

Matthews, like usual, is talking without engaging his brain. He couldn’t have been listening if he thinks that a 1-year spending cut of $1.3 trillion (that’s just $170 billion less than this year’s projected deficit.) equals a tiny fraction of this year’s deficit. It’s just short of 90 percent of the FY2010 deficit.

Based on the scowl on Chris Matthews’ face both before and after he asked Congressman Ryan, it’s clear that he didn’t like it that Congressman Ryan had essentially made him look like the blowhard he is.

Had Rep. Ryan’s econ lesson stopped there, I would’ve been happy. Unfortunately for Matthews, Ryan continued the econ lesson in this exchange:

RYAN: No, no. You have to understand, Chris, 75 percent of those people who pay that tax rate are small businesses who file as individuals, not corporations. That’s the problem with this economic argument, Chris, is when you think you’re just taxing rich people like Bill Gates, what you’re end up doing is you`re hitting successful small businesses. When we tax our employers more than our foreign competitors tax theirs, they get our jobs and we lose in global competition.

So, we ought to be keeping our eye in economic growth and job creation, what`s necessary to do, and that means low tax rates on businesses and small businesses in certainty. We have a whole new tax on certainty that’s hurting economic growth. We need to give taxpayers certainty that they’re not going to have a huge wave of tax increases in 2011 and then another in 2013.

This observation is what Chris Matthews didn’t want to hear:

When we tax our employers more than our foreign competitors tax theirs, they get our jobs and we lose in global competition.

The same principle applies to interstate competition, too. If businesses can get a better deal, whether it’s in another state or another country, they’ll accept it. They’re in business to make money. PERIOD. If the cost of manufacturing is higher in the United States than it is in South Korea, the jobs get shipped overseas. If the cost of manufacturing is higher in Minnesota than it is in South Dakota, the jobs get moved to South Dakota.

That’s why it’s important to extend the Bush tax cuts and repeal Obamacare. Those things alone drive the cost of doing business through the roof. If I owned a business, I certainly wouldn’t be expanding my business right now.

Chris Matthews isn’t interested in that, though. He’s only interested in playing partisan gotcha journalism. For all his talk about wanting a better America, Chris Matthews is acting like he’s only interested in a better America if it’s his version of America.

Thankfully, Paul Ryan kept his composure, answered the questions specifically, fully and calmly. Better yet, he didn’t just answer directly, he taught Matthews an econ lesson on TV by perhaps thousands of people.

This exchange is pure fiction:

MATTHEWS: Congressman Crowley, let me ask you. What are the Democrats going to do about the deficit? Anything?

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D-NY), WAYS AND MEANS CMTE.: Well, I did notice there, though, Chris, was he didn’t mention at all his plan to privatize Social Security. Again, going back to the same old Bush agenda, the failed Bush agenda, the American people rejected in the election of Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate.

(INAUDIBLE) as it may, I think Democrats have really taken steps to be more responsible. We’re working under a PAYGO system, pay as you go. And albeit there are some items that are cut off from that portion of it, we are attempting to get back a system that was proven to get our budgets in order to really, under the Clinton administration —

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: really just, really bring back more fiscally responsible Congress, more responsible government. It has worked in the past. Chris, I think it will work in the future. The president has said he wants to cut this deficit in half and I want to help him do that.

The Democrats’ PAYGO system is a joke. Last week, when Republicans insisted on paying for extending unemployment benefits, Democrats said no. That wasn’t the first time they’d ignored the law they passed this spring. It’s insulting to hear Crowley and Matthews talk about President Obama in terms of fiscal responsibility as though he’d shown as much fiscal responsibility as President Clinton.

This is a big reason why people are rejecting Democrats. They’re tired of Democrats insulting their intelligence. They’re tired of being treated like second class citizens who need the government to take care of them.

I doubt that Democrats will learn anything from Paul Ryan’s econ lesson because, with them, it isn’t about the economy. It’s about their ideology-driven world vision. They’ve spent the past 18 months pushing through their ideology wish list. This November, the American people will vote to put that to a screeching stop.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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