Three negative takes on Paul Ryan’s budget plan


For your emotional convenience, these have been arranged in ascending order of snarkiness.

The New York Times says THIS:

The budget, which will surely fly through the House, was quickly praised as “serious” and job-creating by the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, though it is neither. By cutting $4.6 trillion from spending over the next decade, it would reverse the country’s nascent economic growth, kill millions of real and potential jobs, and deprive those suffering the most of social assistance.

All the tired ideas from 2011 and 2012 are back: eliminating Medicare’s guarantee to retirees by turning it into a voucher plan; dispensing with Medicaid and food stamps by turning them into block grants for states to cut freely; repealing most of the reforms to health care and Wall Street; shrinking beyond recognition the federal role in education, job training, transportation and scientific and medical research. The public opinion of these callous proposals was made clear in the fall election, but Mr. Ryan is too ideologically fervid to have learned that lesson.

The 2014 budget is even worse than that of the previous two years because it attempts to balance the budget in 10 years instead of the previous 20 or more. That would take nondefense discretionary spending down to nearly 2 percent of the economy, the lowest in modern history. And in its laziest section, it sets a goal of slashing the top tax rate for the rich to 25 percent from 39.6 percent, though naturally Mr. Ryan doesn’t explain how this could happen without raising taxes on middle- and lower-income people. (Sound familiar?)

Ezra Klein says THIS:

Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

But the real point of Ryan’s budget is its ambitious reforms, not its savings. It turns Medicare into a voucher program, turns Medicaid, food stamps, and a host of other programs for the poor into block grants managed by the states, shrinks the federal role on priorities like infrastructure and education to a tiny fraction of its current level, and envisions an entirely new tax code that will do much less to encourage home buying and health insurance.

Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career.

And Charles Pierce snidely says THIS:

Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from Wisconsin and most recent first runner-up in the vice-presidential pageant, has releasedhis latest “budget,” which is only a budget in the same way that what the guy says to the pigeons in the park is a manifesto. It is constructed from the same magical thinking, the same conjuring words, the same elusive asterisks, and the same obvious obfuscations of its actual intent that Paul Ryan and his running mate put forward in the last campaign, in which they were so thoroughly rejected that Ryan couldn’t even carry his home town. In fact, in this fiscal fantasia, the magical thinking, conjuring words, and obvious obfuscations are now run by us at 78 r.p.m. so as to balance the budget in 10 years rather than in 40. It is very doubtful that a country that declined to savage itself on a 30-year layaway plan is likely to agree to do so over a decade so as to get all the savaging done at once. What is it about elections that Paul Ryan doesn’t understand?

What is it about America that he just doesn’t get?

And that is the central pivot to Ryan’s entire career, and certainly to his completely unwarranted stature as some kind of economic savant. Paul Ryan’s economics are not economics so much as they are a statement of political philosophy. All political economics are based in political philosophy but, in Ryan’s case, political philosophy is not the root of his notion of a political economy. His political philosophy is his notion of political economics. He believes that there are certain things that the government should not do for its citizens, and he would believe that if the balance showed a 20-gozillion surplus. His goal is to stop the government from doing those things. Everything else he does — every “budget” he proposes — is in service to that philosophy. His whole career has been made within the confines of that philosophy. It has blinded him to the very real human effects of what would occur if his “budget” ever was adopted, it also has blinded him to his own staggering hypocrisy — a man seeking to demolish the very safety net that got him through high-school and college, a man talking about the perils of government who’s never had a real job outside of it. He is engaged in an extended act of camouflage through which he concocts disguises for policy preferences that the country has told him, over and over again, it does not want, and which the country has told him, over and over again, do not reflect the country’s idea of itself. When he laughed at Paul Ryan in that debate, Joe Biden laughed for America.

UPDATE: OK! By popular demand, here are three more takes:

Dana Milbank says THIS:

Paul Ryan’s budget is an amazing and wondrous document.

Not only does it balance the budget in 10 years while reducing tax rates, it also does so without any pain or suffering — or even breaking a sweat. It achieves not just the longtime goals of policymakers — “a safety net strengthened . . . retirement secured . . . a nation protected” — but also brings about changes in human nature that have bedeviled civilization from the beginning of time. “This budget ends cronyism; eliminates waste, fraud and abuse,” Ryan’s plan promises.

“Now, how do we do this?” Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, asked with a magician’s flourish as he unveiled his budget Tuesday morning.

Here’s how: The former Republican vice presidential candidate’s budget eliminates ___ loopholes in the tax code, cutting the ___ and the ____ deductions. It reduces spending on the ____ program by _____ and the _____ program by _____. Retirees would see ____, students would experience ____ and the poor would be _____.

There are so many blanks in Ryan’s budget that it could be a Mad Libs exercise.

Andrew Rosenthal says THIS:

The budget is not merely terrible policy, but also bears no resemblance to what Americans want — at least judging from their rejection of the G.O.P. presidential ticket last year as well as more recent public opinion surveys.

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner crowed on Twitter  about a new Marist/McClatchy poll. He claimed the survey shows that Americans prefer spending cuts to tax increases. But he read it wrong.

It’s true that when asked in the broadest sense if they would prefer to reduce the deficit mostly by cutting government programs instead of mostly by raising taxes, Americans chose cutting 53-37 percent.

But when asked about specific kinds of government programs, respondents chose raising taxes over cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education and transportation. They said they would rather cut spending only when it comes to energy, the military and unemployment benefits.

Do you hear that, Mr. Ryan? A lot of Congressional Republicans want to cut jobless benefits, but they don’t want to balance the budget at the expense of military contractors or the oil companies.

And Bryce Covert says THIS:

The latest iteration of Paul Ryan’s budget is out today, and while you might expect it to look very different than the one proposed before he was part of a losing presidential ticket, he seems to have dug in his heels on some of his most extreme proposals, like block granting vital programs, voucherizing Medicare and drastically slashing spending. As with the first rounds of Ryan budgeting, this one would be bad for nearly everyone (except perhaps the wealthy), but it would especially take an enormous toll on the country’s women.

Women depend heavily on Medicaid. They make up 70 percent of its beneficiaries, which means 19 million low-income women have access to health care.

Last time around, Paul Ryan wanted to block grant Medicaid. This time is no different. In its current form, Medicaid is a program in which states and the federal government jointly finance health care for low-income people. Because the federal government shares the cost with states, it also requires them to adhere to some guidelines on benefits and eligibility. In a block grant system, however, the federal government sends a lump of cash off to the states with no strings attached. Even if actual spending on the program isn’t reduced (which, given the huge cuts to government spending included in this program, those who are wonkier than I may find it will be), simply changing the structure of the program this way is a very bad plan.

UPDATE II: Andy Borowitz satirically chimes in with THIS:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) was jubilant today after his newly unveiled budget plan picked up a key endorsement from the novelist Ayn Rand.

It was a rare public utterance for the late Ms. Rand, who has been damned to eternal torment in Satan’s lake of fire since 1982.

“This is a budget I wish I had written,” said Ms. Rand, pausing to scream as white-hot flames licked her face. “Paul Ryan is a great man and I look forward to meeting him someday.”


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