Unlike most years, there’s no real point to the House and Senate Budget Committees presenting budget blueprints this year. Federal spending levels for this fiscal year and the next were already established in an agreement that was approved months ago.
But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) today unveiled a 99-page document (pdf) anyway, not because he had to but because he wanted to. This is a political exercise, intended to make an election-year point. That’s not intended as criticism, per se – political exercises in election years are hardly outrageous – but it’s important to realize this is more of a Republican fantasy. There’s no pretense that this will actually become the nation’s budget.
As a political matter, this bigger picture, however, still matters a great deal. Indeed, if it’s the GOP’s wish-list, voters should appreciate what the party has in mind, especially given that Republicans are poised to have a great year at the ballot box.
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday will lay out a tough, election-year budget that he says will come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.But even with those cuts, Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is counting on a boost of economic growth to balance the budget, a boost he says will be gained by reducing the deficit. Many economists believe such dramatic spending cuts – especially those affecting the poor – would have the opposite effect, slowing the economy and lowering tax receipts.
It is, to be sure, exactly what the political world has come to expect from the Ayn Rand acolyte from Wisconsin. But given just how conservative Ryan’s vision is, I can’t help but wonder who’ll be more excited by this budget plan: Democrats, who’ll be eager to run against it, or Republicans, who may be eager to run from it?
Consider some of the top-line highlights:
* Ryan’s plan would cut spending more than $5 trillion over the next decade, despite the roll spending cuts have played in undermining economic growth.
* It would replace Medicare with a privatized voucher system for future retirees.
* It would repeal the Affordable Care Act, taking coverage away from millions, while slashing Medicaid. It would then increase defense spending.
* The blueprint would be brutal towards the poor, and includes practically nothing in the way of poverty “reforms” that Ryan recently expressed an interest in.
* Ryan would scrap funding to combat the climate crisis.
* The plan would slash the top marginal tax rate from 39.6% to 25%, but largely ignores Dave Camp’s plan for systematic tax reform.
In recent years, the House Budget Committee chairman has struggled to actually pay for all of this – it’d insult smoke and mirrors to call Ryan’s financing “smoke and mirrors” – so this year he embraces “dynamic scoring.” In other words, Ryan believes he can pay for his wish list by implementing it, which he’s certain would make the economy soar, which means he’s comfortable counting predicted revenue as actual revenue.
The challenge for House Republicans, of course, is whether they’re prepared to once again throw their support behind such a radical governing vision. I suspect there are plenty of GOP lawmakers who would have been content to see no Ryan plan at all, especially since it’s wholly unnecessary as a policy matter, but the Wisconsinite is choosing to put them on the spot anyway.
And if House Republicans endorse it en masse, don’t surprised if it’s the DCCC that applauds the loudest.