Ryan’s proposal does balance the budget… in ten years. There is no doubt that given the current level of dependence on government programs/ government spending, that balancing the budget will cause pain for many Americans and that the faster you make those cuts the more it will hurt those folks. But, we are past the point of making these reforms painless; the longer you draw it out the more you run the risk of the needed reforms being too little too late. Think about these reforms like pulling off a band-aid… the faster you pull it off the more it’ll hurt in the short term but the faster you’ll feel better in the long term. Plus, regardless of how long it takes to get there, when was the last time Congress has done anything that is planned for four years or longer and not made changes to it within two or three years? The point… even if this got passed and signed into law (which it won’t) Congress would monkey with it well before the ten years this plan needs.
Ryan’s proposal cuts the growth of spending to about 3.4 percent per year compared to the nearly five percent that the current continuing resolutions would continue adding each year. It also cuts about five trillion dollars from current spending. But, unfortunately, it relies on Obama’s $618 billion fiscal cliff tax increase and the $1 trillion Obamacare tax hikes to balance. The budget does repeal Obamacare spending, insurance exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion, but keeps the taxes. Two tax increases that the Republicans fought (but lost) to protect Americans from, now becomes a main stay of the budget for the next decade. Does that sound very conservative to you?
Like last year, Ryan protects defense from sequestration cuts. This is good. As North Korea’s posturing shows, the world is not a safer place today. But the national defense budget has been reduced by Obama’s just when U.S. forces need to be replenished and modernized. Ryan’s budget essentially adopts the defense spending caps in the Budget Control Act without sequestration. This is better than Obama’s inadequate funding for current and future needs, and certainly better than the sequester, but is still way less than what is needed.
There is entitlement reform but most of it is focused on Medicare reform. It comes in the form of Ryan’s signature solution of a premium support model. While moving to a patient-centered model would free retirees from having to depend on the unstable and unsustainable government run program; it will be attacked as a means to put more money in the hands of the rich without care for the well-being of the poor. If the Republicans would do a better job explaining the benefits of doing this, it would be a win for conservatives, but they have never been good at educating the public on entitlement reform. Also of note, this budget offers no Social Security reforms.
The spending caps of the Budget Control Act on “non-defense discretionary” spending is extended for two years and kept at sequestration levels. It also looks to consolidate the federal government’s 49 job training programs, and takes steps toward reining in farm subsidies. It rejects closing tax “loopholes” just to raise revenue. True tax reform should be revenue neutral as any revenue raised by closing a “loophole” should be offset by lowering tax rates. These are all good things.
There are some very good points to this proposal. There are some troubling points as well. In the end it won’t matter as the Senate will never pass a budget like this and Obama would never sign if it did make it to his desk.
At some point the Republicans will have to prove that they are serious about the budget. That starts with no longer passing continuing resolutions. If it is necessary to shut down the government to bring the Democrats to the table then do it! Then they must stand on principle. If you repeal Obamacare then that includes all the tax increases that come with it. You must cut spending! Entitlement reform must happen, and that means sooner rather than later. If you don’t do this things then nothing will happen to make things better for any of us and we will all go down together.