Paul Ryan budget proposal sparks criticism from Democrats and some Republicans

Melina Mara/THE WASHINGTON POST - WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: Walking past cherry blossoms on the Capitol grounds, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) comes off the House floor after votes and after unveiling his 2013 budget plan at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

The House Republican budget proposal released Tuesday elicited unhappy responses from both Democrats and other conservatives, as Rosalind Helderman and Lori Montgomery reported it likely would :

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.

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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.”

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were not satisfied with the cuts in the Ryan budget, Ed O’Keefe reported in 2Chambers :

Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) termed the effort “very disappointing,” in a Tuesday statement. And he’s now been joined by fellow GOP candidate Rick Santorum, who told Glenn Beck later Tuesday that he believed Ryan’s spending plan is a “great blueprint” but he believes “we need to cut government spending faster” than the $5.3 trillion Ryan has proposed slashing over the next decade.

Santorum’s own plan calls for $5 trillion in cuts over five years. And he has said he believes Ryan would not move quickly enough on Medicare reform.

And the conservative Club for Growth had this to say, Helderman reports:

The group’s president said in a statement that Ryan’s plan does not put the country on a path to chop deficits quickly enough.

Chris Chocola also complained that that the budget largely waives massive cuts that are set to go into effect in January as a consequence for the failure of Congress’s special deficit reduction “supercommittee.”

According to the Budget Control Act — the hard-fought law that raised the nation’s debt ceiling over the summer -- failure of the supercommittee was to trigger about $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, split between military and domestic spending.

In Ryan’s budget, the so-called sequester--deeply unpopular to Republicans because of its powerful hit to defense--would be replaced. Tackling only the first year of the cuts—about $110 billion—his budget calls for instructing Congressional committees to come up with $18 billion in trims the first year and $116 billion over five years.

“It is hard to have confidence that our long-term fiscal challenges will be met responsibly when the same Congress that passed the Budget Control Act wants to ignore it less than one year later. On balance, the Ryan Budget is a disappointment for fiscal conservatives,” Chocola said in a statement.

Ryan’s budget also seeks to eliminate deficits by 2040. The Club for Growth has called for a budget that balances within the decade. Chocola said the budget contains “several important reforms and pro-growth policies” but is not enough.

“The Club for Growth urges Republicans to support a budget that balances in the near future and complies with the Budget Control Act,” he said.

Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer took a close look at the cuts in the Ryan budget:

Paul Ryan’s budget would spend $5.3 trillion less over the next decade than President Obama’s budget. Part of this is health care: Ryan would trim Medicare and Medicaid for a portion of his savings. But he’d also spend $2.2 trillion less on everything else. So what, specifically, is Ryan planning to cut?

Paul Ryan’s budget would cut transportation spending 38 percent, compared with the White House’s budget.

The clearest way to figure this out is to look at the “Chairman’s mark”: This is the version of Ryan’s budget that’s in legislative language and gives specific forecasts for spending by government function. You can see them in table form at the end of his bill (pdf) and then compare them with the White House’s Table 32-1 here. Exciting, right?

Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would authorize $4.8 trillion between 2013 and 2022; the White House’s would spend $5.7 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 25 percent less on transportation and 13 percent less on veterans. He’d spend 6 percent less on “General science, space, and basic technology.” And, compared with the White House’s proposal, he’d shell out 33 percent less for “Education, training, employment, and social services.”

A variety of think tanks and analysts  have pegged the cost of repairing and upgrading our transportation networks at somewhere between $200 billion and $262 billion per year over the next decade. The White House’s budget envisions spending an average of about $104 billion per year. Ryan’s budget, meanwhile, allocates $78 billion per year. In his summary, Ryan claims he can meet the country’s needs by cutting back on “imprudent, irresponsible, and downright wasteful spending,” though it’s not clear what waste Ryan has in mind, much less whether it would make up the gap.

I asked Third Way’s budget expert David Kendall if he could update some of his numbers for Ryan’s budget. Under Ryan’s plan, for instance, spending on transportation would be 26.1 percent lower in 2014 than it is today. If that size cut was applied to, say, air-traffic control programs, Kendall notes, “there would be 3,092 more flight cancellations and 68,683 delays annually. At the U.S. average of 49 passengers per flight, that’s enough to strand 151,503 more people at the gate and make 3,365,685 more people late every year.”

Likewise, spending on natural resources and the environment would be 14.6 percent lower under Ryan’s budget in 2014 than it is today. 

Read more on PostPolitics.com
What Paul Ryan’s budget actually cuts — and by how much
Santorum: Ryan budget plan ‘a great blueprint,’ but doesn’t cut enough
Milbank: Ryan’s reverse Robin Hood

 
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