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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

House GOP’s Flat-Earth Budget

The black-and-white details are available just yet, but if the outline provided in today’s Wall Street Journal by House Budget Committee ranking Republican Paul Ryan is accurate, the much ballyhooed GOP alternative budget resolution will be a compilation of very tired and very bad ideas.
On the tired side, you have the brilliant breakthrough concept of a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending (exempting veterans affairs). This is, of course, the oldest of budget gimmicks, central to the fiscal strategy of the first President Bush. It treats all federal programs as of identical worth, and achieves savings by counting on inflation to bleed the actual value of federal expenditures.
Equally tired, if not quite as old, is the concept of reducing taxes on corporations and high earners, which the Ryan budget would achieve at an estimated five-year cost of $4 trillion. The gimmickry here is the creation of a two-track income tax system that would allow taxpayers to choose current rates and deductions, or instead, a flat schedule that would have a top marginal rate of 25%. Corporate tax rates would simply be reduced.
Slightly more novel are the “entitlement reform” features of the House GOP budget. Best I can tell from Ryan’s vague description, Medicare would be voucherized for future beneficiaries (those not currently over 55 years of age), which is to say, it would be eliminated as a defined set of benefits and instead turned into cash for the purchase of private insurance, presumably at a fixes rate that would erode purchasing power over time. The federal share of Medicaid would be capped, which simply means that states would be put in the position of either picking up a larger share of the total costs or cutting services or eligibility. Guess which way they will go.
Best of all, the climate change crisis would be address by expanded oil and gas exploration, with a nod to alternative energies through a commitment to deposit lease or sales revenues into a “clean energy” fund.
It’s a pretty amazing package, reflecting the worst ideas from two decades of bad ideas for evading national challenges and shifting resources to the already privileged. And when we have the details, it could get worse.

3 comments on “House GOP’s Flat-Earth Budget

  1. edkilgore on

    James:
    Funny you should mention that. The “details” are now out, and they basically differ from the brief material in Ryan’s op-ed in offering page after page after page of–wait for it!–numbers. The same vague descriptive language–particularly on health care–is in the op-ed, the press release, the summary, and the actual draft bill. You can imagine how reliable those numbers are, given the GOP’s belief in “dynamic scoring,” in which every tax cut pays for itself ten times over.

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  2. James Vega on

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for those details, Ed. The Hill reports that:
    “Asked about specific items in the GOP version, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the question by saying that those details are “just a bunch of numbers.”
    Not only every ordinary, middle of the road voter, but every sensible small businessman and executive in America should feel a chill run down their spine reading that. The Republican leadership is essentially rejecting any pretence of serious participation in economic policy. They are a “wrecking crew” offering PR talking points and nothing more.

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