Why the new House GOP budget plan will be even worse

Why the new House GOP budget plan will be even worse
Why the new House GOP budget plan will be even worse
Getty Images

Remember House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan? In 2011, nearly every GOP lawmaker in Congress threw their support to the radical proposal, perhaps best known for ending Medicare and replacing it with a voucher scheme. Ryan’s blueprint slashed public investments, gutted assistance to the most vulnerable Americans, and relied on magical assumptions that crumbled under mild scrutiny.

And in 2013, the House Republicans’ budget plan will be much worse.

The budget battle took new shape Tuesday when House Republicans disclosed plans to design a tax and spending proposal that would lead to a balanced budget in 10 years, something leaders from neither party have tackled in recent decades. […]

If Mr. Ryan plans to design a budget plan in the coming weeks that would balance the budget by 2024, he’ll have to deal with the tricky balance between taxes (which Republicans want to keep low) and spending.

That’s quite an understatement.

I realize it’s probably a bad idea to combine inside baseball on Capitol Hill and budget wonkery, but this is pretty amazing.

Ryan’s notorious budget plan was lauded by establishment media types who didn’t read it, and had no idea how fiscally insane it was. For all the hype about the Wisconsin Republican being a “deficit hawk,” Ryan’s budget plan actually proved the opposite – he cut spending to the bone in all kinds of critical areas, but instead of applying those savings to debt reduction, Ryan’s blueprint applied the money to more tax breaks for the wealthy. Ryan’s plan – the one celebrated by pundits for being “serious” – didn’t balance the budget until 2040, nearly three decades away, and even then, the figures relied on rosy assumptions that most found unrealistic.

Now, however, Ryan intends to unveil a plan to balance the budget in one decade instead of three. Take a wild guess what that means.

It means, of course, that Ryan will either present a budget plan so absurd that it will be literally laughable, filled with outrageous magic asterisks, or it will be the most brutal and regressive plan ever seriously considered by a major American political party.

Republicans have already ruled out tax increases, Pentagon cuts, and changes to entitlements for current retirees. As Jon Chait explained, that doesn’t leave Ryan with a whole lot of choices if he intends to bring the deficit to zero in just 10 years.

You have, mainly, programs for the poor and very sick, like Medicaid, child nutrition, unemployment benefits, and so on. Then you have domestic discretionary spending, which is basically all the major functions of government that aren’t either defense or writing a check to people – infrastructure, food inspectors, scientific research, and on and on. Republicans have already forced Obama to accept extremely tight caps that would cut domestic discretionary spending to well below its lowest level as a share of the economy in decades. How those caps would actually be implemented when it comes time to impose the cuts, I can’t imagine.

But that’s the pot of available savings. It’s around a trillion and a half dollars in 2023. So, that means House Republicans will have to cut domestic discretionary programs and spending for the poor by about half. […]

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% spending cut on programs for the poor and sick.

It’s an agenda intended to make the original Ryan plan look almost liberal by comparison.

I can’t wait to see this plan. I also can’t wait to see how many House Republicans are prepared to actually vote for it.