House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared on NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday to discuss the Republican tax bill and the impact it will have on workers, leading host Savannah Guthrie to ask him if he was "living in a fantasy world."
Guthrie expressed skepticism that the bill would lead to higher pay for workers, and to buttress her point she quoted former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
"CEOs aren't waiting on a tax cut to 'jump-start the economy' ― a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company ― or to hand out raises," wrote Bloomberg in an op-ed earlier this month. "It's pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth."
Guthrie then pushed Ryan, asking: "I'll ask you plainly, are you living in a fantasy world?"
Ryan insisted surveys show that the huge corporate tax cuts at the center of the GOP bill will spur business leaders to "pay people more money, higher wages."
Senate Republicans passed the bill early Wednesday, and the House is poised to give it final approval later in the day and send it to President Donald Trump. Ryan's efforts to defend the measure come amid one new poll showing only 24 percent of Americans think its a good idea. Attacks on the bill include that it benefits the wealthy, as opposed to the dwindling middle class, and that it will add an estimated $1.6 trillion to the government's deficit.
On ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, Ryan rebuffed the criticism about the bill not helping the middle class. "I think minds are going to change and I think people are going to change their view on this," he said.
On the "Today" show, he told Guthrie that it isn't possible to predict how the tax bill would affect the deficit.
Guthrie referred to Ryan as a "longtime budget hawk," and asked: "Are you saying that the growth you're going to get from this tax cut will equal the amount it would cost on the deficit side so that it's a wash, so that you're not adding to the deficit at all because of this?" she asks.
"Nobody knows the answer to that question because that's in the future," he said. "But what we do know, this will increase economic growth."
He went on to say that many Americans are "living paycheck to paycheck," and that "another group of people in this country are about one check away from living paycheck to paycheck," and the U.S. needs "faster economic growth so that people can get ahead."
"That's what we're doing," Ryan said. "The average tax cut for the median family of four in America is going to be $2,059. $2,000, if you're living paycheck to paycheck, is a serious tax cut."
Journalist Soledad O'Brien responded to Ryan's comment with a tweet noting that "a family of four that gets a $1 million dollar tax cut and a family of four with zero tax cut has an 'average' of half a million in tax cuts."
Projecting deficits, meanwhile, is always a matter of looking into the future, so Ryan's answer on the issue skirted the key question of the tax bill's impact of the government's red ink.
Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) told HuffPost in October that, "sadly, it doesn't seem in [Washington] that people are very concerned about the debt or the deficit anymore."
Blum, though, has supported the tax bill. And as the clock runs down to the measure becoming law, it doesn't seem as if Blum or Ryan are concerned either.