So when Ryan said over the weekend that the country isn't facing an immediate debt crisis, Very Serious People were right to be dismayed. After all, how can Paul Ryan possibly convince Americans to support his plan to balance the budget in ten years if he says there's not an immediate debt crisis? If Ryan says there's no debt crisis, people might get crazy ideas—like believing that creating jobs should be our top priority, not austerity.
Fortunately, Paul Ryan has a boss: House Speaker John Boehner. And Speaker Boehner knows there's a debt crisis. He said so in December, dismissing President Obama's plan to replace the sequester and end Bush tax cuts for the wealthy because "his plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis."
But wait, I'm just learning now that Boehner has recanted. This weekend he said:
We do not have an immediate debt crisis.Asked specifically whether he agreed with President Obama who has said we don't have an immediate debt crisis, Boehner said "yes." Don't get me wrong, he still says he wants to make huge spending cuts, because eventually he says we'll have a crisis—but he says we don't have one right now.
But just because Boehner is changing how he talks about whether or not there's a debt crisis, it's not like he's actually changing his policies. Sure, it would be reasonable for him to change, given that the budget deficit has dropped by half since 2009 while the unemployment rate is still stuck near 8 percent. But that's not happening. Republicans might be saying there's no debt crisis, but austerity is still the only thing they are offering.