The big news yesterday was the budget, which you can read here, presented by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would cut anywhere between $5.8 to $6.2 trillion (depending on the news story you’re reading) over the next 10 years:
House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a far-reaching budget proposal that cuts $5.8 trillion from anticipated spending levels over the next decade and is likely to provide the framework for both the fiscal and political fights of the next two years.
The ambitious plan, drafted principally by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the Budget Committee, proposes not only to limit federal spending and reconfigure major federal health programs, but also to rewrite the tax code, cutting the top tax rate for both individuals and corporations to 25 percent from 35 percent, reducing the number of income tax brackets and eliminating what it calls a “burdensome tangle of loopholes.”
Ryan took to the Wall Street Journal to explain this budget:
Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, is very different. For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion.
A study just released by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects that The Path to Prosperity will help create nearly one million new private-sector jobs next year, bring the unemployment rate down to 4% by 2015, and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade. It spurs economic growth, with $1.5 trillion in additional real GDP over the decade. According to Heritage’s analysis, it would result in $1.1 trillion in higher wages and an average of $1,000 in additional family income each year.
The plan freezes spending to below 2008 levels for five years, reforms Medicare and Medicaid, reforms the budget process and, as noted above, reforms the tax code. In an excellent video released with the proposal, Ryan explains that without these reforms, the nation’s prosperity will be put at serious risk:
As a first step toward budget sanity, Ryan proposes further cuts to discretionary spending beyond those currently being debated. However, his main focus is on transforming the so-called entitlements. He would transition Medicare from the current Soviet-style system to one based on consumer choice. Instead of a system based on payments to health-care providers, new retirees would receive a “premium support” payment to buy a private insurance plan of their own choosing.
That reform would allow Congress to directly limit taxpayer costs, while encouraging providers and patients to reduce inefficiencies in the system. It would also improve the quality of care through more competition. Without such reforms, rising costs will likely compel Congress to start rationing care to seniors and making other cuts that would seriously distort the health-care system.
For Medicaid, food stamps, and other federal-state aid programs, the Ryan plan embraces block grants. The states would receive a fixed pot of money, but be given more flexibility on program design. That would end incentives for states to over-expand their programs with “free” federal dollars. Block granting was the successful approach of welfare reform in 1996, and it should be warmly received by today’s large group of conservative governors.
Paul Ryan has proposed a fiscal reform structure that should win broad political support. Moderates can take comfort that the premium support idea for Medicare reform is endorsed by prominent Democratic economist, Alice Rivlin. Fiscal conservatives can take comfort that the Ryan plan is a step toward even larger spending and tax reforms. Block granting, for example, can be a step toward fully devolving programs such as food stamps to the states, and the Ryan tax plan can be a first step toward a flat tax.
Political leaders keep saying that we need an “adult conversation” on federal budget reforms. Republican Ryan has started that conversation, and now it is up to Democrats to put aside their childish rants about “extremism” and offer up their own plan to avert the coming fiscal disaster.
While different aspects of the budget proposal are already being slammed by Democrats, including the plans to reform Medicare and Medicaid, Erksine Bowles (D) and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R) - co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s fiscal commission - called Ryan’s budget a “credible plan” and a “positive step.”