Ryan's Budget: A Frontal Assault on the New Deal
by Charles Lemos, Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 08:33:25 AM EDT
Wisconsin GOP Congressman and Chair of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal in which he outlines $6.2 trillion in spending cuts from the President's budget over the next ten years. According to Rep. Ryan, his plan would put the country "on the path to prosperity." Clearly, we must have a different definition of prosperity.
The Ryan budget proposes to bring spending on domestic government agencies to below 2008 levels, and it freezes this category of spending for five years. It also would demolish Medicaid by privatizing the most successful and beloved safety net for the elderly and the poor. Of the $6.2 trillion in proposed cuts, about a fifth would come from decimating Medicaid. Jonathan Allen of Politico offers the background on why Ryan thinks he can get away with this:
Think of it like this: Medicare and Social Security are like money hidden inside locked boxes behind a vaulted door, while Medicaid is a stack of money laying on the teller’s table. Medicare and Social Security are protected by two layers. There’s the political danger of going after programs that serve Republican and “swing” voters, and GOP leaders have promised not to alter benefits for folks who are within 10 years of retirement.
“It is difficult to construct significant budget savings for the Medicare program in a five or 10 year time frame of a normal budget resolution, particularly if fundamental changes to the program — such as converting to a defined contribution plan — would not impact any individuals who are currently 10 years from qualifying for Medicare,” says Bill Hoagland, the longtime top Senate budget aide who now lobbies for Cigna. “On the other hand, federal budget savings are more easily obtained in the Medicaid program within the time frame of a budget resolution, where the policy is simply to limit the federal grant program to the states.”
Indeed, Medicaid is flush with new cash. Last year’s health care law adds $627 billion to the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (Medicaid for kids) over the next decade, according to the Joint Tax Committee. That money hasn’t been spent yet, so it’s just sitting there for the taking.
The Ryan budget also aims to lower taxes bringing the top marginal rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. It hopes to maintain a revenue-neutral approach "by clearing out a burdensome tangle of deductions and loopholes that distort economic activity." Specifics, I assume, will come at a later date but the insanity of repeating a failed economic mantra comes now.
Congressman Ryan asserts in his op-ed that "no one person or party is responsible for the looming (fiscal) crisis." Perhaps not. But the Ayn Rand-loving acolyte that is Paul Ryan should perhaps realize that his approach has been tried before and that such an approach has only engendered a deepening cleavage that has torn at the social fabric of this country. It was the New Deal that built the middle class in America ensuring a broad-based prosperity for most though certainly not all. Today's GOP with its nefarious budget is leading a final frontal assault on the New Deal and should they succeed they will plunge the country into a severe depression and tear the country apart.