Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled his budget today. The highlights include: pro-growth tax reform; a $5 trillion reduction in spending off the president’s budget; a $3 trillion reduction in the deficit relative to the president’s plan; a Medicare premium support plan (that unlike the 2012 plan will include traditional fee-for-service Medicare within the premium support plan); and maintenance of defense spending for next year (with modest growth thereafter). The plan is presented as a contrast with President Obama’s plan, in essence a “choice between two futures.”
The contrast on the national security side is stark. Since he got into office, Obama has been slashing defense. The defense budget was set to be cut by $55 billion in 2013 by virtue of the sequester mechanism. That is on top of Obama’s $487 billion in cuts over 10 years. As Ryan points out, “In the President’s latest budget proposal, total spending increases by $1.5 trillion and taxes increase by $1.9 trillion, for a total of around $400 billion of deficit reduction over ten years. A clear-eyed look at the numbers reveals that American taxpayers and the Department of Defense are being asked to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction under the President’s budget.”
In essence, House Republicans are agreeing tothe $78 billion in defense cuts in 2012 and the $60 billion more in defense cuts for 2013, but no more. But finding alternative savings for the sequester cuts and thereafter raising defense spending at a modest 2.5 percent,the Ryan budget restores about half the cuts Obama had wanted.
In a variety of areas (energy, housing, health care and financial services), the budget aims to root out “corporate cronyism.” This includes privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; repealing Dodd-Frank; and limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s discretionary powers. The budget also would repeal Obamacare and limit the size of the federal workforce.
Under the Ryan budget, federal spending would drop from 24 percent of GDP to under 20 percent in 2015. With specific instructions (“reconciliation instructions”) to six House committees (Agriculture, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary and Government Oversight and Reform), the Ryan budget would deliver an additional $18 billion in savings in 2013. In other words, cuts in these areas would replace the defense sequestration and add in some more cuts for good measure.
The Ryan budget positions the GOP as the party of a finite federal government, reduced spending, pro-growth tax reform, Medicare reform and strong national security. If voters want a choice in 2012 between two ideas, the Ryan plan certainly clarifies the distinction between the parties.