Paul Ryan Dusts off and Re-introduces the Budget He Campaigned On
The budget plan introduced today by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan looks a whole lot like the plan that Ryan and Romney campaigned on last fall. However, it’s not that it hasn’t changed at all, because he proposes even deeper cuts in income tax rates this time — to undo the tax measures enacted in early January as part of the compromise that avoided the fiscal cliff.
The following are some of the noteworthy aspects of the Ryan budget, drawn from a 4-page critique issued late today by Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
- Unspecified tax offsets – The current budget plan, like the one Romney proposed, would make a deep cut in the top income tax rate, and purports to offset the cost of that by closing tax loopholes. In the months since the election, Ryan still hasn’t come up with a single offset that he is willing to offer publicly as a way to make the rate cuts revenue neutral.
- Cutting Medicaid and repealing coverage expansions in the health reform law – Greenstein states that, “under Ryan’s budget, 40 to 50 million more poor or moderate-income Americans would be uninsured, even as the wealthiest Americans enjoyed new tax cuts.” His critique explains how that estimate is derived.
- Medicare – Once again Ryan proposes replacing Medicare’s guarantee of coverage with a voucher or “premium-support payment,” for people who begin to receive Medicare benefits in 2024 or later. More immediately, his plan would repeal the Medicare benefit improvements in the Affordable Care Act, including the closure of the prescription drug “donut hole.”
- Defense spending – The Ryan plan would increase defense spending by about $550 billion over the next 10 years (relative to current law, after the base level was reduced by sequestration).
- Non-defense discretionary spending – While increasing or restoring defense spending, the Ryan budget would cut non-defense discretionary programs by $700 billion over the next 10 years. However, the plan doesn’t specify what would be cut, or even assign many of the cuts to broad categories. The Greenstein statement explains that the cuts will have particularly serious effects for low-income individuals and families, and state and local governments.
- Does it balance the budget in 10 years? – According to Greenstein: “In critical ways the budget is exceedingly vague — and, as a result, its claim to reach balance in ten years is hard to take seriously. .. the budget’s fiscal claims rest on massive magic asterisks.”
After offering a spirited rebuttal to those who contend that Ryan shows “courage” by proposing such a budget, the Greenstein critique concludes:
“Paul Ryan is a smart and engaging individual. But, make no mistake: his budget is extreme. And, in its reverse Robin Hood policies, its ideological rigidity, and its calculated vagueness, it sadly reflects some of the worst features of American politics at this crucial time.”