The rest of the Ryan budget

April 28, 2011

A series this week by Jonathan Cohn takes this point as its premise:

Discussion of the House Republican budget has focused mostly on the privatization of Medicare, the block-granting of Medicaid, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And that's appropriate, given the magnitude of the changes and widespread impact they would have. But those proposals are obscuring some other proposed shifts that, in any other context, would be plenty troubling for their own sake.

The discussion hasn't been quite that narrow, at least not among those critical of the GOP budget for 2012: there's been much talk (including here) about not just the budget's health-insurance program reforms but also the cuts that come with them, the tax breaks for high earners and corporations and the plan's highly imaginative math.

Still, Cohn's right: there are plenty of other provisions in the bill that deserve a dose of public outrage of their own. He's posted on four so far:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, gets the Medicaid treatment: it's converted to a state-administered block grant, and its funding is cut. SNAP spending would no longer grow automatically during an economic downturn, a shame given its stellar performance as economic stimulus--to say nothing of all the hungry people who can't find a job.
  • Along with replacing Medicare with an underfunded voucher system, the budget raises the program's eligibility age from 65 to 67. Add to this the repeal of health-care reform--actually just some of it, since the Republicans decided they like a lot of it as long as it has their names on it instead of the president's--and you're left with uninsured and underinsured 65- and 66-year-olds and higher health-insurance costs for everyone.
  • The budget eliminates an important element of the 2010 financial reform bill: the federal government's power to take over failing financial mega-firms and dissolve them in an orderly way, as it does with traditional banks that are failing. Republicans have long attacked this provision as "permanent bailout authority" for the government, a powerful line but an odd way to defend a position shared by Wall Street. The real point is to prevent the need for a bailout.

This week, House Speaker John Boehner distanced himself from the GOP budget, an odd thing to do after he successfully pushed it through the House. Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a detailed rival plan that includes some serious tax hikes. It'll never pass, but that's not the point: the budget negotiations will involve à la carte solutions and much compromise. The Progressive Caucus's menu of ideas will help counteract the bad ones detailed above--and its existence will make it harder for the Republicans to take Obama's moderate, pre-compromised approach, paint it as insanely and dangerously liberal and then get him to compromise even further.


Honesty in accounting

The Ryan budget, like any proposed budget, is open for discussion and criticism.  All budgets have a speculative aspect to them, but Ryan's proposal is, at the very least, a bold move based in fiscal reality, its math being much less imaginative than that of social welfarists who think the money train will never run out despite mind-boggling national debt. 

The mindless parroting of the "tax-cuts-for-the-rich" mantra is growing old.  (And it's actually based on envy.)  Ryan's budget proposal eliminates tax loopholes for high wage earners, and, because of this, does not result in any real tax cuts for the rich.  It is supposedly revenue neutral. (By the way, my income is way below what would be affected by this, so I don't have any personal reason to defend ostensible "tax cuts for the rich," but I would like to think of myself as an apologist for accuracy in reporting).

Thanks anonymous, but it's an opinion piece...

...and Steve has always made a point of expressing his opinions.  Facts or logic notwithstanding, he is a servant of tax-and-spend (and spend even more when there isn't enough tax) policies, and you can't push that out of him.  And don't worry too much about the accuracy.  As Justice Powell pointed out, there is no such thing as a false idea, so Steve is just pushing his ideas irrespective of facts.

Like most tax-and-spenders, Steve is unwilling to face realities like--there isn't anymore money in Washington.  He is also unable to cope with the distinction between Christian responsibilities (the things we actually do without paying taxes) and government programs (the things that we leave to "government" because we choose to abdicate our personal responsibilities).

If we as Christians care about people, we go to people in need and help them.  If we as political robots "care" about people, we ask the government to do what we ought to be doing in our own communities.  Figure out which you are.  Do you give at church?  Do you serve meals?  Do you clothe people?  Do you volunteer at health fairs?  Or do you demand unsustainable government spending of imaginary money from a revenue base that will never satisfy the growing hunger for entitlements?

In a Christian century we have a choice between Christian ministry and government programs.  While they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, we must each decide where our faith is.  I plan to keep giving and serving and trusting in God.  It isn't conservative or liberal.  It is just a part of living in God's world.

>Ryan's budget proposal

>Ryan's budget proposal eliminates tax loopholes for high wage earners,
and, because of this, does not result in any real tax cuts for the
rich.  It is supposedly revenue neutral.

The second sentence here is exactly right, given the word "supposedly"--the Ryan budget doesn't so much eliminate loopholes as simply state that we should eliminate some loopholes. The tax breaks, on the other hand, are quite concrete. And in any case, all I said is that the budget includes the tax breaks, which is a plain fact.

I'm committed to getting the facts right. So if I got any wrong, please point them out and I'll look into it.

How do you figure

Steve Thorngate,
You completely twisted the quote you replied to. The original comment said Ryans plan was "supposedly revenue neutral" not that it supposedly eliminated tax loopholes. I have no clue how you managed to twist this around, but it might explain alot about why you think the way you do.

Maybe you should spend some time reading Ryans plan instead of just reading what likeminded liberals want you to think about Ryans plan.

The Ryan plan does IN FACT eliminate tax loopholes. In order to get the lower rates you demonize, the tax filer pays a flat rate and fills out their taxes on a simplified form the size of a postcard.

I've read the plan. It says

I've read the plan. It says it will reduce and eliminate excemptions and loopholes. It doesn't give any specifics--which ones, how much this will save. So I really meant the phrase "supposedly revenue neutral" -- I'm not questioning whether they would eliminate any loopholes at all; I'm questioning how money this would save. That seems like a fair question since the plan commits to no specifics.

Tax cuts for the rich??

Steve, in your original article you refer to "the tax breaks for high earners" that are ostensibly in the Ryan budget. I think you have essentially conceded that this was a disingenuous assertion since you have since admitted that the Ryan budget, even though it may lack some specifics, is structured to eliminate tax loopholes now utilized by the high wage earners.    

The budget's information

The budget's information about loopholes doesn't lack some specifics, it lacks any specifics--it doesn't say what loopholes, or for whom (they don't all just affect rich people) or how much they'd be reduced. The tax breaks, however, have actual (large) numbers attached to them. That's a difference in kind between a real proposal and a vague promise, not a minor difference in degree of specifics. And even if it wasn't, a tax break is a tax break, even if some loopholes also do get eliminated--again, there's not a one-to-one correspondence there. So no, I don't concede anything.