Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is insisting that Republican budget plans which drastically cut discretionary spending on programs for the sick and the poor is an "opportunity" instead of "austerity."

NBC host David Gregory on Sunday pointed out to Ryan that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently argued that "the willingness of the government to keep spending was one of the main reasons we didn’t experience a full replay of the Great Depression."

"Well, we can debate the efficacy of Keynesian economics or not, and I think that it's pretty clear that it doesn't work," the former Republican vice presidential nominee quipped. "We're not preaching austerity; we're preaching growth and opportunity. What we're saying is if you get our fiscal ship fixed, you preempt austerity."

"A debt crisis is what they have in Europe, which is austerity," he continued. "You cut the safety net immediately, you cut retirement benefits for people who have already retired, you raise taxes, slow down the economy, young people don't have jobs. That's the austerity that comes when you have a debt crisis. And when you keep stacking up trillion dollar deficits like this government is doing, it's bringing us to that moment."

"Our job is to prevent and preempt austerity so we can get back to growth."

New York magazine's Jonathan Chait noted last week that House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) plan to balance the budget within 10 years was "utterly impossible" because it was as plausible as a "Unicorn Being Ridden By Santa Claus Who Has Lost 50 Pounds Through One Weird Trick."

Chait explained: "Now, if you assume that Republicans aren't going to actually figure out how to go further than the domestic discretionary cuts they've already voted for — I doubt they can actually carry those out — then the available pool of spending is the $900 billion-some dollars spent on programs for the poor and sick: Medicaid, food stamps, etc. So we're looking at close to a 90 percent spending cut on programs for the poor and sick."

"I suppose Paul Ryan could spin this as a super-compassionate plan to help starving children and people with awful diseases learn to stop being moochers and take care of themselves," he added. "But the inescapable fact is that Boehner has committed now to voting on something that would require even more draconian cuts to social spending than the Ryan budget."

The NewStatesmen has defined "austerity" as "an economic policy: deficit-cutting, slashed spending and the mysterious evaporation of benefits."

Watch the video below from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast Jan. 27, 2013.