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Opinion

Opinion

GOP budget plan is bold blueprint for future

April 9, 2011

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In 1983, the British Labor Party under the hard-left Michael Foot issued a 700-page manifesto so radical that one colleague called it “the longest suicide note in history.” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has just released a recklessly bold, 73-page, 10-year budget plan. At 37 footnotes, it might be the most annotated suicide note in history.

That depends on whether (a) President Obama counters with a deficit-reduction plan of equal seriousness, rather than just demagoguing the Ryan plan till next Election Day, (b) there are any Republicans beyond the measured, super-wonky Ryan who can explain and defend a plan of such daunting scope and complexity, and (c) Americans are serious people.

My guesses: No. Not really. And I hope so (we will find out definitively in November 2012).

The conventional line of attack on Ryan’s plan is already taking shape: It cuts poverty programs and “privatizes” Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich.

Major demagoguery on all three counts.

• The reforms of the poverty programs are meant to change an incentive structure that today perversely encourages states to inflate the number of dependents (because the states then get more “free” federal matching money) and also encourages individuals to stay on the dole. The 1996 welfare reform was similarly designed to reverse that entitlement’s powerful incentives to dependency. Ryan’s idea is to extend the same logic of rewarding work to the non-cash parts of the poverty program — from food stamps to public housing.

When you hear this being denounced as throwing the poor in the snow, remember these same charges were hurled with equal fury in 1996. President Clinton’s own assistant health and human services secretary, Peter Edelman, resigned in protest, predicting that abolishing welfare would throw a million children into poverty. On the contrary. Within five years child poverty had declined by more than 2.5 million — one of the reasons the 1996 welfare reform is considered one of the social policy successes of our time.

• Critics are describing Ryan’s Medicare reform as privatization, a deliberately loaded term designed to instantly discredit the idea. Yet the idea is essentially to apply to all of Medicare the system under which Medicare Part D has been such a success: a guaranteed insurance subsidy. Thus instead of paying the health provider directly (fee-for-service), Medicare would give seniors about $15,000 of “premium support,” letting the recipient choose among a menu of approved health-insurance plans.

Call this privatization if you like, but then would you call the Part D prescription benefit “privatized”? If so, there’s a lot to be said for it. Part D is both popular and successful. It actually beat its cost projections — a near miraculous exception to just about every health care program known to man.

Under Ryan’s plan, everyone 55 and over is unaffected. Younger workers get the insurance subsidy starting in 2022. By eventually ending the current fee-for-service system that drives up demand and therefore prices, this reform is far more likely to ensure the survival of Medicare than the current near-insolvent system.

• The final charge — cutting taxes for the rich — is the most scurrilous. That would be the same as calling the Ronald Reagan-Bill Bradley 1986 tax reform “cutting taxes for the rich.” In fact, it was designed for revenue neutrality. It cut rates — and for everyone — by eliminating loopholes, including corrupt exemptions and economically counterproductive tax expenditures, to yield what is generally considered by left and right an extraordinarily successful piece of economic legislation.

Ryan’s plan is classic tax reform — which even Obama says the country needs: It broadens the tax base by eliminating loopholes that, in turn, provide the revenues for reducing rates. Tax reform is one of those rare public policies that produce social fairness and economic efficiency at the same time. For both corporate and individual taxes, Ryan’s plan performs the desperately needed task of cleaning out the myriad of accumulated cutouts and loopholes that have choked the tax code since 1986.

Ryan’s overall plan tilts at every windmill imaginable, including corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies. The only thing left out is Social Security. Which proves only that Ryan is not completely suicidal.

But the blueprint is brave and profoundly forward-looking. It seeks nothing less than to adapt the currently unsustainable welfare state to the demographic realities of the 21st century. Will it survive the inevitable barrage of mindless, election-driven, 30-second attack ads (see above)? Alternate question: Does Obama have half of Ryan’s courage?

I think not (on both counts). But let’s hope so.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

How Much Do You Know About Planned Parenthood?

From the truckload of responses I'd say most have little idea surrounding Planned Parenthood and use extreme repub thinking as a source of information. In fact elected officials seem quite uniformed.

Of course birth control allows us to prevent pregnancy and plan the timing of pregnancy. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm

There are many health issues that only affect women. This section focuses on women's health issues http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/womens-health-4284.htm

What do you know about sex? What do you know about sexuality? We hear about sex and sexuality almost every day, but much of what we hear is inaccurate and can be confusing. A basic understanding of sex and sexuality can help us sort out myth from fact and help us all enjoy our lives more. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/sexuality-4323.htm

There are many health issues that only affect men. This section focuses on men's sexual health issues. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/men-4285.htm

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Claim:Under the proposed health insurance overhaul, tax dollars will be used to pay for abortions.

President Obama charged that one of the "fabrications" of the health insurance debate was that federal dollars could be used to pay for abortions in a new insurance system. But anti-abortion groups say the principal House insurance overhaul bill would allow for government-funded abortions. Some House Democrats also oppose the bill because they fear it could be used to pay for abortions.

Is it fact or fiction? A little of both. Taxpayer subsidies cannot be used to directly pay for abortions, according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee bill, H.R. 3200.

The key provision: the Capps amendment The bill includes an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps, D- Calif., approved by a vote of 30 to 28, which says federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions in any government-run plan created by the bill. According to Capps, apart from cases of rape or incest, or where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, only "private funds from the policyholders' own premiums" could be used to pay for abortions.

What are 'public funds'? The premiums that policyholders will pay "are public funds once they go into the control of a federal agency," argues Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes H.R. 3200. So, Johnson contends, public funds will be used to pay for abortions. Supporters of the Capps amendment argue that only a person's own money would pay for abortions.

The anti-abortion alternative The House Energy and Commerce Committee, by a vote of 31 to 27, defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak, D- Mich., and Rep. Joe Pitts, R- Pa., that would have banned federal funds from being used "to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion," except in cases where the mother's life was in danger, or in cases of rape or incest.

Of course birth control allows us to prevent pregnancy and plan the timing of pregnancy. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm

cato_the_elder 3 years, 8 months ago

The big fight is going to be over raising the debt ceiling, and it will occur next month. Members of both parties must find the courage to say "no."

According to Reuters/CNBC, for the federal government to continue spending at current levels for the rest of fiscal year 2011 - i.e., for just the next six months - Congress will have to increase the federal debt ceiling by over one trillion dollars. To keep the government going through November 2012 will take well over two trillion.

Regardless of anything that's been agreed to so far on the budget, the only way to get serious about the severe crisis we face is to refuse to raise the debt ceiling and thereby force real reductions in government spending. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do this. Senator Marco Rubio recognizes this. Will others in Congress have the guts not just to to recognize it, but to do something about it? Stay tuned.

Corey Williams 3 years, 8 months ago

Its funny how, all of a sudden, our national debt is such a big deal. Where were the tears and hand ringing when Reagan nearly tripled the debt by the end of his eighth year?

notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

"Its funny how, all of a sudden, our national debt is such a big deal."

If I have a mortgage and some credit card debt that are easily covered by my paycheck, then no, debt is not a big deal. If I take out a second mortgage and max out a few more credit cards when my pay is declining, then yeah, it becomes a little bigger of a deal.

It makes more sense to complain about increasing debt when revenues have fallen than it does to defend increasing debt when you complained about the lower levels before.

Getaroom 3 years, 8 months ago

The sourpuss Krauthammer has left out some inconvenient truths as usual, but after all he reads his notes of the prompter at FuaxNews. I guess it is fine with him that Ryan's bill also makes the Bush Tax Cuts permanent if all goes his way. Ryan's government is not of and by the people, it is in the image of corporations, business as usual in the Republican Party. The devil is always in the details and everything is a detail.

notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

Speaking of "inconvenient truths", Getaroom:

  • The Bush tax cuts benefitted everyone, across the board, at about the same percentage of their tax liability.

  • More than twice as much tax relief was accounted for by breaks to the non-rich as by those for the rich.

  • Overall federal tax revenues increased, they did not decrease, following the cuts.

But after all, you get your news off the prompters of Madkow and Herr Olbermann.

sourpuss 3 years, 8 months ago

So why are corporations like Exxon and GE getting tax rebates in the hundreds of millions when they post billions in profits and paid no taxes in? Yeah, sounds like "benefiting equally" to me.

true_patriot 3 years, 8 months ago

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this will have a negative effect on jobs and the economy, which is what some on the Right have stated openly as a political goal in the hopes of pushing Obama out in 2012. Right now we should be ending the tax cuts on the ultra-rich to restore that part of the revenue stream, while spending money in targeted ways to get returns on our investment in jump-starting the economy.

The problem is that this radicalism and the failure of Congress to act in the interests of the majority of Americans is going to do extreme damage on top of all the damage done over the past ten years, without doing much to help the deficit racked up during those ten years. It's time to deficit spend, which is what federal governments can do (unlike individuals and most states), not cut beyond bone into the marrow and maim the economy further than Wall Street already did.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 8 months ago

"...the failure of Congress to act in the interests of the majority...."

A substantial majority of Americans spoke last November. The question is whether Congress will listen to them.

notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

"Right now we should be ending the tax cuts on the ultra-rich to restore that part of the revenue stream"

So, the definition of a "true_patriot" is someone that thinks because there's more of us than there is of them, we should be allowed to steal (more of) their money. Interesting interpretation.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 8 months ago

But not in the least surprising.

By the way, congrats on winning the championship. It's great to see any team in any sport improve throughout its season and peak when it counts.

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 8 months ago

Slash programs for the poor, sick, and disabled, and cut taxes for the rich.

A bold blueprint for the future (or lack thereof), indeed.

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