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Right Turn
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 04/05/2011

The liberals are already misleading the public on the GOP budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will introduce a revolutionary budget, seizing the mantle of leadership from the president. So we can expect liberals to begin to spin furiously. In fact, they already have.

A case in point: Ezra Klein wrote yesterday: “In Medicare’s case, the reform is privatization.” False: The plan calls for premium support for Americans 54 years and younger. Just like Medicare Part D and the congressional health care system, seniors will be given a choice of plans with subsidies (more for the poor than for the rich).

Klein claims that Medicaid isn’t reformed, it’s cut. Again, this misstates the plan. To begin with, the federal government will continue to spend more on Medicaid each year. In addition to block granting ( which is a reform in providing states with the latitude to provide services to the poor), the Medicaid proposal is part and parcel of a larger packet of reforms that includes reform of job training and food stamps.

Klein writes: “To my knowledge, Ryan’s budget doesn’t attempt to reform the medical-care sector. It just has cuts.” That’s wrong, too, although Klein conceded that he really didn’t know the facts. The proposal includes a premium support plan and medical malpractice reform. It ends the raid on the Medicare trust fund by Obamacare, eliminates the rationing mechanism ( the Independent Payment Advisory Board) and redesigns the physician reimbursement system.

Once the plan is out I trust Klein and others will accurately relate what is in the plan, including its $6.2 trillion in spending cuts below President Obama’s proposed budget, elimination of corporate welfare, reduction of the debt by $4.7 billion (in comparison to the White House’s plan) and much more. It’s a shame the president didn’t put out something responsible so we could have a debate on the relative merits of serious plans. As of today, there is only one serious one. So other than demagoguery, what have the liberals got? I guess the Democrats have decided to be the “party of no.”

But there is a reality that cannot escape serious analysis. The Obama-enamored David Brooks understands fully what Ryan is up to:

Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Ryan is expected to leap into the vacuum left by the president’s passivity. The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.

His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race.

The Ryan proposal will help settle the fight over the government shutdown and the 2011 budget because it will remind everybody that the real argument is not about cutting a few billion here or there. It is about the underlying architecture of domestic programs in 2012 and beyond.

Moreover, Brooks decimates the argument that the plan is not reform-oriented:

The initial coverage will talk about Ryan’s top number — the cuts of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. But the important thing is the way Ryan would reform programs. He would reform the tax code along the Simpson-Bowles lines, but without the tax increases. (It’s amazing that a budget chairman could include tax policy in his proposal, since it’s normally under the purview of the Ways and Means Committee.)

The Ryan budget doesn’t touch Medicare for anybody over 55, but for younger people it turns it into a defined contribution plan. Instead of assuming open-ended future costs, the government will give you a sum of money (starting at an amount equal to what the government now spends) and a regulated menu of insurance options from which to choose.

The Ryan budget will please governors of both parties by turning Medicaid into a block grant — giving states more flexibility. It tackles agriculture subsidies and other corporate welfare. It consolidates the job-training programs into a single adult scholarship. It reforms housing assistance and food stamps. It dodges Social Security. The Republicans still have no alternative to the Democratic health care reform, but this budget tackles just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts.

Ryan was a protege of Jack Kemp, and Kemp’s uplifting spirit pervades the document. It’s not sour, taking an austere meat ax approach.

Actually, there is something there on Social Security (a trigger to require a presidential and congressional plan once the Social Security Trust Fund becomes insolvent). And the Medicare plan doesn’t give individuals the money — it goes to Medicare. But these are minor details. Really, if the left can’t persuade Brooks to savage the plan, isn’t the jig mostly up?

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 04/05/2011

Categories:  Budget

 
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