But the document — which pairs deep spending cuts with a reduction in the top tax rate paid by the wealthy — quickly provided new fodder for Democrats, who argued that Republicans would slash the social safety net while protecting the rich.
The proposal, authored by Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calls for spending cuts and tax changes that would put the nation on course to wipe out deficits and balance the budget by 2040. The national debt would continue to rise but would shrink to the historic norm as a percentage of an expanding economy.
But because Ryan and other Republicans reject higher taxes in any form, that path would require significant reductions in a host of popular federal programs.
Ryan calls for turning over to the states responsibility for the major federal programs for the poor, including Medicaid and food stamps, and giving recipients a deadline to find work and get off the government dole — much as welfare reform did to cash benefits in the late 1990s.
Federal education and job training programs would be consolidated and “modernized,” the plan says. And spending on Pell grants for college students would be reduced and retargeted toward low-income students most in need of assistance.
All told, Ryan proposes to slash federal spending by $5.3 trillion over the next decade compared with President Obama’s latest budget blueprint, with the biggest savings taken from health programs — including the repeal of Obama’s initiative to expand health coverage to the uninsured — and entitlements for the poor.
But it might not be enough for many tea party conservatives, who are demanding that Republicans balance the budget within the next 10 years. In an op-ed published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan argued that the plan offers “real spending discipline.”
“It does this not through indiscriminate cuts that endanger our military, but by ending the epidemic of crony politics and government overreach that has weakened confidence in the nation’s institutions and its economy. And it strengthens the safety net by returning power to the states, which are in the best position to tailor assistance to their specific populations,” he writes.
Ryan says he will stage a vote on the plan in the House Budget Committee on Wednesday, and that he has the necessary support to move it to the House floor. Even if it were to win approval, the blueprint would be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Ryan said it would provide a foundation for the GOP’s election-year push for a radically smaller federal government.