It’s not about either logic or the common good. If Mr Ryan can sell it, he’ll be rich. Oh, and his buddies, too.
See e.J.Dionne today.
I listened to Rush promoting this yesterday. One of the things he mentioned is that they would force people who “can afford it” (what does that mean?) to pay for their healthcare (at least some of it).
Listening to this, I kept on thinking, what is this “afford” and how would it be determined? Of course, the answer would be those companies one would get “vouchers” for, companies looking for the mighty buck, not the care of those who buy their product.
It’s easy to see what this means.
If you have the money, you live. If you don’t, you die.
It’s not just that some would die, it’s that so many would suffer real hardship without full coverage. Most people want to be good to their parents, plus there are all the boomers about to go on Medicare who must have figured out that they’re about to be cheated.
The non-Fox TV news channels are giving some details about what Ryan would imply if passed. TV reporters have parents too.
Looks like there is new competition for the mantle of Party of No.
Republicans are kind of the dry drunk of the budget battles, but by making a serious (if flawed, IMHO) stab at entitlement reform, they may surprise Obama and the Dems by getting credit for at least being serious about the budget.
One thing that is not quite clear to me is whether or not Ryan’s plan requires insurers to accept any and all Medicare patients that apply. If it does not, why aren’t people screaming about leaving such individuals out in the cold? If it does, why aren’t people asking 1) how are insurance companies going to afford taking on a growing population with huge medical expenses? and 2) exactly how is this different from what HCR is doing with the rest of the population? (you know, the same HCR of which Ryan’s budget requires complete defunding?)
Any help would be appreciated.
“In addition to acknowledging that seniors, disabled and elderly people would be hit with much higher out-of-pocket health care costs, the CBO finds that by the end of the 10-year budget window, public debt will actually be higher than it would be if the GOP just did nothing.”
Do they know how to add and subtract those TPs? Next thing, they’ll be defunding the Congressional Budget Office because it does know how.
So I take it (based on these penetrating insights) Commonweal won’t be providing any acutal objective analysis of the Ryan Plan? No counterfactual analysis of what social programs for the poor will look like if we continue on the current path? No suggestion of any viable alternative proposals that don’t just rely on tax increases on “the rich” (who already pay near 40% of taxes)?
I guess if you don’t understand it, all there is left to do is to pan it.
GE pays no taxes. as do many other corps. The $million individual incomes pay less than they have for years . Why can’t the Dems make a 2012 election promise program to raise million dollar incomes to 40% and .. Put examination/audit of corp. taxes [GE tax lies runs to 20,000 pages] out to private contractors who work on commission at 1% of every dollar they can find on corp taxes not paid. GOP loves out sourcing Gov. jobs.. and Hire more judges too to laugh at corp. whiners…I’m all for Non violent class war
Jeff likes Ryan’s plan where Medicaid is out sourced to states w/o mandates.
The Red states Republican reps. would laugh at the poor trying migrate out of these red state hell holes as they get sick..
So I take it (based on these penetrating insights) Commonweal won’t be providing any acutal [sic] objective analysis of the Ryan Plan?
Indeed. What a shame.
Rep. Ryan at least deserves respect for proposing serious solutions to serious problems that a generation of political hacks have just kicked down the road.
He’s a smart guy and fully realizes what he was signing up for. Demagoguery is all we can expect from the Democrats, the lamestream media, the moonbat blogosphere and Prof. Obama’s “professional left”. If Commonweal simply recycles the same mindless cant already in ample supply, what’s the point?
all the boomers about to go on Medicare who must have figured out that they’re about to be cheated
No one who goes on Medicare in the next ten years would be affected at all.
As for those after that point, precisely how would they be “cheated”? And what is a better reality-based solution?
“GE pays no taxes. as do many other corps. The $million individual incomes pay less than they have for years.”
Yet all these people supported Obama and are giving huge amounts of money to the Democrats. Indeed the CEO of GE is head of Pres. Obama’s Economic Council. Most of the states don’t want mandates on how to spend the money – this applies to both Democratic and GOP Governors.
Ryan is thinking creatively about both how to make the federal more sustainable and re-think the safety net in this country that doesn’t just rely on open-ended commitments to increasingly large chunks of the population that do not necessarily need such social programs. Moreover, in significant measures, it tracks the proposals of the PRESIDENT’S fiscal debt commissoin, which he has wholly ignored!
Jeff Landry: Ryan is not “thinking creatively”; he’s recycling far-right boilerplate from the last 50 years. As for Obama taking money from GE, it proves only that he and his party are much corporate shills as the GOP — a point I’ve repeatedly made on this blog.
You and I (and j.a.m.) have no way of arguing, because I’m all in favor of open-ended commitments to increasingly large chunks of the population. I happen to believe in a generous welfare state, given the endurance of a capitalist economy. Want some creative thinking? End the ceiling on the amount of income liable to Social Security taxes. Better yet, turn it into a genuine social welfare program, funded from general tax revenues. Same with Medicare and Medicaid: fold them both into a national health care system. Call it socialism if you want — it would be music to my ears.
As for the President’s fiscal debt commission, again, it’s composition is another sign that he’s a shill for business interests — a cabal of billionaires and their servants. (Alan Simpson, God help us.) Besides, I put no credence in a bunch of billionaires telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts.”
Because 5 percent of the population owns 60 percent of the wealth, they should pay at least 60 percent of the income tax. Theoretically they are supposed to pay 40 percent, but they don’t because of all their beloved loopholes.
If you aren’t aware of how grossly unfair our tax system is, check out what Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the U. S., says about it. He says thahis employees pay 33 percent in taxes, while he pays only 19 percent, and he says that’s unfair. Pay attention to the Sage of Omaha, folks, he didn’t get to be so rich by not understanding how money works in this country, and, unlike many super=rich he also has a conscience.
“No one who goes on Medicare in the next ten years would be affected at all.”
That’s not what I’ve read and seen on TV, but reports have been conflicting. We won’t really know until the votes are taken.
The reason I say the boomers will be cheated is because they have been paying into Social Security all these years expecting to be included in Medicare and making their long-term financial plans accordingly. I think it would be unfair in the extreme to pull the economic rug out from under them at this point, saying, “You’re on your own, buddy”.
aaNo, the wealthy ones won’t be affected noticeably by killing Obamacare (as the Republicans are trying to do), but the middle- and lower middle class people be badly affected (not to mention the poor who are scheduled to have Medicaid tossed down to the states). Do you realize what insurance for old folks costs? I, for instance, pay a personal Medicare tax, plus part of my regular income tax goes towards it, plus I pay around $3000 per year supplemental insurance, plus insurance for medications — and I still pay for some of my medications because they aren’t all covered. For many , many people this would be prohibitive. (And I might note that one of my drugs used to cost $6000 per year, but fortunately it went generic.)
Yes, of course somebody has to pay. But by sharing the risks we eliminate the threat of huge and, worse, catastrophic medical bills, which is really what most people need the most. What you’re paying for in any insurance plan is the security of knowing that your bills won’t kill you financially. Yes, most people won’t get back what they pay into the system, but the same is true of house and car insurance. Yet we pay for those with little complaint, and for good reason.
Either we’re going to pay some in order to share the risks, or you’re going to live in fear of crippling bills in your old age.
If the CBO is correct, Ryan has a genius — for increasing the federal deficit:
How does Ryan’s proposal line up against the recommendations of the Deficit Reduction Commission?
@Ann Olivier (3:00 am) From what I’ve seen, j.a.m. is correct—under Ryan’s proposal no one who goes on Medicare in the next ten years would be affected at all. It’s the tail end of the baby boomers and following generations for whom Medicare would be abolished.
@Jeff Landry (7:56 pm) I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the coming weeks, the dead tree version of Commonweal publishes a number of analyses, commentaries, editorials and letters of Ryan’s proposal and the nation’s fiscal challenges.
I’m not a policy analyst (and I don’t play one online). However, in recent months I have played around with several “balance the budget game” online, created by various policy and advocacy groups, as well as by some media outlets. Based on their numbers, I was able to “solve” most of the country’s debt problems by restoring Clinton-era income tax rates, eliminating most corporate tax loopholes, and reducing defense spending as we wind down our current wars.
@j.a.m. (10:08 pm) I’ll give Rep. Ryan credit for putting forward a proposal. As time goes on, if he turns the proposal into a bill, has it “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office, moved through committee and voted on by the House, I’ll give him credit for each step along the way.
I disagree however, with your assertion that he’s dealing with “serious problems that a generation of political hacks have just kicked down the road”. Here’s a brief history (as best I recall) of the highlights of US federal deficits and debt over the past generation:
*Reagan is elected. Tax cuts proposed by Reagan and passed by congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats. Under supply-side theory, the tax cuts are to stimulate economic growth that will more than make up for the loss of federal tax revenue. Supply-side theory doesn’t work in the real world; annual deficits soar and accumulated federal debt begins to grow rapidly. Later in Reagan’s administration, there are several tax increases passed, including a 1986 tax code overhaul that closes many loopholes that had crept in over the years.
*Following recommendations from the Greenspan Commission, bipartisan legislation is passed to “save Social Security”—primarily by raising rates on current workers and slowly raising the retirement age for future retirees.
*Despite his “no new taxes” campaign pledge, President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Mitchell cut a budget deal in 1991 that cuts spending and raises taxes to decrease (though not eliminate) the deficit.
*President Clinton, without a single Republican vote, passes a 1993 budget that cuts spending and raises taxes. The 1991 and 1993 budgets are the two most significant governmental actions (along with the low interest rates Fed chairman Greenspan delivered after the 1993 budget) that contribute to the economic growth of the 1990s and the elimination of federal deficits at the end of Clinton’s adminstration.
*As Joe Klein points out in the piece linked to above by David Gibson, President Bush and a Republican Congress passed two major tax cuts, and a major expansion of Medicare and embarked on two wars (with some Democratic support). It was (I believe) the first time in US history that the country went to war while cutting and not raising taxes to pay for (at least some of) the war.
*The previous Congress, without a single Republican vote, passed the Affordable Care Act which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will extend health insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans while reducing total debt over the next 10 years.
Please correct me where I’m wrong, and add in anything I’ve left out, but as I read that history, there’s a combination of responsibility and irresponsibility over the past generation in dealing with fiscal issues by the federal government. The fiscally responsible decisions have been made either when there was a division of power and a bipartisan compromise (e.g., Reagan-O’Neill, Bush-Mitchell, to a lesser extent Clinton-Gingrich), or when Democrats have held power (Clinton’s budget in 1993, Obama’s health care reform in 2011). The most fiscally irresponsible decisions have come when Republicans held power (Bush in 2001 and 2003).
@j.a.m. (10:15 pm) Some of us boomers scheduled to go on Medicare after 2021 would be “cheated” in the sense that we have, all our lives, paid into Medicare with the understanding that if we reached age 65 it would provide basic health insurance for us. Since, as I understand it, Rep. Ryan’s proposal envision repealing the Affordable Care Act and (among other things) its madate barring private health insurers from discriminating on the basis of “pre-existing conditions”, that means (I think) that anyone who turns 65 starting in 2022 who has a pre-existing condition wouldn’t be able to buy health insurance (unless fabulously wealthy). Your mileage may vary, but under that scenario, I’d feel cheated.
As for a better “reality-based solution”: for the federal debt, restoring Clinton-era income tax rates on the wealthy, decreasing military spending and eliminating corporate tax breaks and loopholes would be a good start. They also have the “reality-based” advantage of enjoying broad public support. (They have the “reality-based” disadvantage of facing broad opposition from the wealthy and the Chamber of Commerce.) For health care, according to the “reality-based” Congressional Budget Office the Affordable Care Act is a good start. If congressional Republicans have proposals to reduce costs while maintaining access to health care, I imagine that Obama and the Democrats would welcome them with open arms (metaphorically speaking).
Democratic majorities in both houses were substantial until 2010, during which time there was a Democrat in the White House. If the Clinton-era tax rates couldn’t be restored by that configuration, then it’s difficult to see how they will ever be restored.
Working from that reality – if a tax increase isn’t possible, then something else has to give.
@ eugene: I would humbly submit the problem with reaching compromise isn’t our individual substantive points, but rather attitudes evinced by comments like this:
“As for the President’s fiscal debt commission, again, it’s composition is another sign that he’s a shill for business interests — a cabal of billionaires and their servants. ”
This attitude assumes the worst intentions of those with whom you disagree; that they are acting merely out of a nebulous and vague conspiratorial network rather than in a free and transparent market, a market that has been and will continue to be it would seem.
For all the sturm und drag about Ryan’s plan from liberals & Democrats, a point made by Jim Pauwels remains unaddressed: the Democrats controlled the White House and the Congress by substantial majorities until last year; if they wanted to raise tax rates or enact far-reaching reforms that ultimately sustain the social safety net they are carping about now, they could have. Instead they went down a path of loading up special interests. And when they COULD have let the Bush tax cuts expire, Pres. Obama caved. So who’s the party of “No” now? At least Ryan is proposing a plan based in reality. Look at what the debt commission actually proposed. And where is Obama out championing those reforms? Huh?
But the bottom line is, whatever your take, I do not think positions that assume the greed, narcissm, evil, or what have you of the other side is really worth entertaining.
@Jeff Landry (10:47 am) I concur with you and Jim Pauwels that the previous Congress’ failure to, for example, restore Clinton-era income tax rates on the wealthiest 2% of Americans is troubling.
I think it’s worth pointing out that President Obama campaigned on a pledge not to raise taxes on incomes below $250,000. I suspect he felt constrained (for better or worse) by that campaign promise. If I recall the events of last December correctly, it was Republicans who refused to allow any tax/stimulus legislation to move forward unless it included a tax break for the wealthiest 2% of Americans for the next two years. Obama “caved” as you put it, in part to win extension of unemployment benefits. We can debate whether that was a good compromise, but it was clearly a compromise by both parties.
As for Ryan’s plan being based in reality, apparently it is based in part on the following assumptions:
*that unemployment will fall steadily over 10 years to 2.8%;
*that over the next generation federal spending for everything except health and Social Security will fall from 12% to 3.5% of GDP.
Unfortunately, I think after the Democrats’ recent experiences of passing major deficit reduction legislation without any Republican votes (the 1993 Clinton budget, the 2010 Affordable Care Act—both of which were followed by major electoral losses), we’re unlikely to see major deficit reduction unless 1) Republicans are willing to cut a deal (as they did in 1983, 1986 and 1991), or 2) outside economic forces intervene—which doesn’t appear to be immediately likely.
As for the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, for the record, the commission never actually voted to approve a final report—in part because Republican members (including, I believe, Rep. Ryan) refused to vote for it.
My own preference would be to have this Congress approve those measure that enjoy broad public support in recent polls—increasing income and capital gains taxes on the wealthy, eliminating tax credits for the oil & gas industry, and cutting defense spending. They don’t solve the problem, but they take significant steps in the right direction.
Finally, I agree with you that it’s not particularly helpful to make assumptions about the motives of one’s opponents. I would simply note that Rep. Ryan’s proposals appear to raise taxes on the middle class, cut taxes for the wealthy, eliminate Medicare for everyone under 55, and force Medicaid cuts that will hurt the elderly, disabled and children. Rather than make assumptions about his motives, I’d prefer to reflect on his proposals in the light of the Scriptures and Church teaching.
For a useful critique of the Ryan plan, see David Wessel’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal. Wessel points up a number of the problems with it. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street editorial on the same topic today, is gung-ho Ryan.
Would someone who knows how to do it, please post a link to the Wessel column
Thanks to Thomas Jacobs for posting the CBO analysis.
Jim Pouwels and Jeff Landry, would the CBO analysis lead either of you to revise any of the comments you’ve made on the Ryan plan thus far?
“eliminate Medicare for everyone under 55″
… and substitute an alternative plan.
Medicare and Medicaid are not financially viable. They are fatally flawed: their financial model has failed. They cannot continue unaltered.
Luke, I wholeheartedly agree with your proposal to reflect on Rep. Ryan’s proposals in the light of the Scriptures and Church teaching. If other serious proposals are forthcoming, let’s do the same for them. This is precisely what we (“we” = “Catholic Church”) are called to do.
I would add: let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Politics necessarily involves trade-offs and compromise. There will be no serious proposal that solves every major problem while retaining everything we like about the unsustainable status quo – possibly including things that we like a lot, in the light of scripture and church teaching. We will need to choose between a set of less-than-perfect proposals.
Let’s do the best we can, as peaceably and responsibly as we can.
“. . . if they wanted to raise tax rates or enact far-reaching reforms that ultimately sustain the social safety net they are carping about now, they could have.”
No, Jeff, they couldn’t always do that. If a Democratic majority passed such a tax bill and the Republican president vetoed it (or vice versa), then the majority party would need to have enough votes to over-ride a second veto. As it stands, the 2/3 majority rule has led to the rule of minorities in major matters. The number needed to over-ride vetoes needs desperately to be reduced. We do NOT have majority rule.
@Jim Pauwels (12:01 pm) Thanks for your kind words and the spirit in which they’re offered.
According to (liberal, so your mileage may vary) economist Dean Baker’s analysis (at the Center for Economic Policy and Research), here’s an example of what Rep. Ryan’s proposal would mean for Medicare recipients:
A medium wage earner who retires at age 65 in 2030 would collect $32,200 in Social Security benefits. Since Ryan’s plan abolishes Medicare for our hypothetical retiree, she would get a voucher of $9,750 (based on CBO estimates) to help buy Medicare-type insurance from a private corporation. The full cost of that plan would be $30,460—meaning that our retiree would have to spend $20,700 out of her own pocket to be insured. (Her older sister, born in 1950, would still presumably be covered by Medicare and have much lower out-of-pocket expenses.)
Of course, since Rep. Ryan’s proposal would repeal the Affordable Care Act and its provision barring insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, our hypothetical retiree will have to hope she is lucky enough to reach age 65 without having a pre-existing condition. (Does anyone know what percentage of the population that is?)
Jim, I agree we should not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. I do find it disturbing, however, that not a single Republican vote could be found for the Affordable Care Act—a law that will insure over 30 million Americans while reducing the deficit.
I am not necessarily playing the role of apologist for the Ryan Plan, as I do not think it is perfect or is intended to be reflective of the whatever social vision some would like to read into the Scriptures. My one points can be summarized as:
1. It is a, indeed the ONLY, serious budget proposal that has been placed on the table that addresses both discretionary spending AND (and VASTLY more importantly) entitlement program reform in a serious way. The President, although giving repeated lip service to such a proposal, ultimately put forward such a weak budget that it was panned even by most editorial writers on his own side.
2. Of course Ryan’s plan proposes a re-thinking of the relationship between citizen and government in a conservative point of view. Some act as if this, ipso facto, is somehow invalid. It is a serious CONSERVATIVE proposal based, I believe, in a vision of a smaller, less intrusive government that seeks to promote job creation and encourages people to take responsibility for their own lives. This vision can, I believe, be squared with Catholic teaching. Contrary to the fearmongering, Ryan wants to SAVE the social safety net by re-tooling it.
3. Finally, liberals are objecting to the plan on a number of grounds. Yet they all seem to be assuming that this is some nefarious, greed-driven plan to kick the middle class in the teeth. Yet they forget that change to these programs is NOT an option. One way or another these programs, particularly medicare and medicaid, are dragging the federal budget into a true meltdown. People kick and scream about funding for the arts, funding for schools, funding for NPR and how those mean, greedy Republicans want to kill it all. Yet they don’t realized that UNLESS some changes are made to Medicare and Medicaid that INCLUDES cuts, there won’t be ANY funding left over for anything! So where is the liberal plan to change and save Medicare and Medicaid? All I hear is fear-tactics.
If we leave Afghanistan and Iraq we save a trillion = $1,000,000,000,000 a year. and thousands of lives..Let’s do it on July 4 2011… Ideologues…..Now tell us about NPR and Planned Parenthood savings.
It seems evident at this point 4/6/11, 1:34 pm edt that Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he does and he’s either confused or lying about the outcome.
Here is a piece of Paul Krugman’s thought on the matter: “In any case, the bottom line is obvious: this is not the budget of a deficit hawk. It’s the budget of a deficit exploiter, someone who is trying to use fears of red ink to push through a political agenda that includes major losses of revenue.” http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/where-the-spending-cuts-go/
@Jeff Landry (1:21 pm) I look forward to Rep. Ryan putting his proposal into legislative language, having it “scored” by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and then debated and voted on in committee and the on the floor of the House. I would welcome having his bill debated and voted on (up or down) in the Senate as well.
I would be interested in your views on the Affordable Care Act, passed in the last session of Congress without a single Republican vote. (The ACA reduces the long-term (both 10 year and 20 year projections) federal debt and expands health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans.)
I disagree that “entitlement program reform” is crucial to reducing federal debt. Social Security has relatively minor, long-term projected financial issues. There are no other entitlements (other than Medicare and Medicaid, about which more momentarily) that are a major part of the federal budget.
Rather than entitlement reform, the issue is better framed (in my view) as health care reform—since health care inflation is a major issue in both the public and private sectors. Again, the ACA was a relatively modest attempt at health care cost containment, and yet not only did no Republicans vote for it, many Republicans won election last fall by campaigning against the Democrats “cutting Medicare” by passing the ACA. (That history may make it more difficult, in a partisan atmosphere, for Rep. Ryan and his Republican colleagues to get Democratic support for his proposals—particularly since one of his proposals is to repeal the ACA and not (that I’ve heard of) replace it.)
For the record, I’m in favor of continued efforts and experiments to reduce the growth in health care costs. As Catholics and therefore members of “the world’s largest voluntary association”, we may have a particular contribution to make in that regard since so many of our co-religionists live in countries that have universal health care and lower costs than the US.
Ryan’s proposal does accept the proposed cuts in the rate of growth of military spending proposed by Secretary Gates; and I give him credit for that. I would consider it a more serious proposal (from the perspective of federal debt, and as a “smaller, less intrusive government” conservative document) if Rep. Ryan had proposed long-term cuts in military spending that led to a shrinking of our armed forces as we get out of the three wars we’re currently engaged in. In my view, any deficit-reduction proposal that focuses primarily on the 12% (?) of the budget that is categorized as “non-defense discretionary spending” does not pass the “seriousness” test.
Also, any proposal that does not raise tax revenues is not, in my view, a “serious” deficit-reduction proposal. Over the last 30 years—whether passed by Democrats alone or by Democrats and Republicans—effective deficit reduction measures have included tax hikes and spending cuts. (That’s true of the 1983 Social Security revision, 1986 tax reform, 1991 and 1993 budgets, and 2010 health care reform.)
I don’t assume that Rep. Ryan’s proposal is a “nefarious, greed-driven plan to kick the middle class in the teeth”. I don’t assume anything about his motives. I, and many others, do observe that the effect of abolishing Medicare, slashing Medicaid, cutting Pell Grant and worker training funding, while lowering taxes for the wealthy and raising taxes for some in the middle-class is aptly described as a “kick in teeth” to the middle class. YMMV.
If we had a Senate operating by majority rule, I think it’s pretty clear what the major elements of a liberal plan for federal spending would have been:
*A larger Recovery Act to stimulate reduce unemployment, stimulate economic growth (and thereby increase short-term tax revenues);
*An Affordable Care Act with a public option that would have further decreased long-term federal debt;
*Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire last December for the wealthiest 2% of Americans;
*A “cap-and-trade” law to limit greenhouse gas emissions, have the total costs of fossil fuels more accurately reflected in their prices, and use a portion of the revenues generated to invest in renewable energy—thereby stimulating new industry and employment which would help balance the federal budget.
In closing, two points:
*The Democrats passed health care reform that will expand coverage and shrink deficits. The Republicans last major health care reform (Medicare Part D) blew a hole in the budget.
*The vast majority of the total federal debt can be traced to the Reagan and Bush (I and II) administrations. In particular, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency last decade, they cut taxes for the wealthy, cut regulation and oversight, increased military spending and promised economic growth. What we got was the worst job growth and the largest recession since the 1930s.
“It seems evident at this point 4/6/11, 1:34 pm edt that Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he does and he’s either confused or lying about the outcome.”
Wow, Ms. Steinfels, I would have expected better from someone like you. Whatever your view of Ryan’s plan, I don’t think anyone can say he “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or is “lying” about anything. Even Pres. Obama has acknowledged that Ryan has forgotten more about the budget than most people ever know, and that his plan is a serious policy proposal. Again, from someone of your stature, your comment seems mighty immature and blatantly unfair to me.
“People kick and scream about funding for the arts, funding for schools, funding for NPR and how those mean, greedy Republicans want to kill it all. Yet they don’t realized that UNLESS some changes are made to Medicare and Medicaid that INCLUDES cuts, there won’t be ANY funding left over for anything! So where is the liberal plan to change and save Medicare and Medicaid? All I hear is fear-tactics.”
It is neither a serious nor conservative budget plan because it does not address our bloated military. The US all by itself accounts for 43% of all military spending on the planet. Do something about THAT entitlement (talk about fear-tactics.)
@Luke: you pack a lot in and for the sake of space I just can’t respond to it all.
Re: ACA, I think the consensus view on the bill is that it largely accomplishes one goal at the sacrifice of another. Which of those goals you view as more important determines your view of ACA. One goal is coverage, and on that score ACA is a homerun. It does expand coverage. The other goal (and the more important one in my view) is cost-savings, and no one seriously believes that ACA will cut health care costs because the bill really isn’t designed to do so. John McCain actually had a very bold health care proposal that I regret he ignored: end the tax break for employer-provided health care. That single policy intiative would more effectively expand coverage and lower costs because it would force health care to respond to normal market responses. I know, I know all these words like “market” are anathema, but that is the reality we live in. We are not going to get a single payer system anytime soon. But you can force health care to respond to normal supply and demand by empower CONSUMERS to make reasonable choices. Right now, health care is innoculated from these forces. Interestingly, in one of the tell-all books about the Obama admin. it was revealed that Obama actually likes McCain’s idea, but because he basically demagogued it in the ’08 election, he couldn’t go near it as real policy.
You say, “I disagree that “entitlement program reform” is crucial to reducing federal debt.” That is a totally non-sensicial statement, and you should look to Pres. Obama’s OWN DEFICIT COMMISSION for evidence of that. You are right that Social Security is not an immediate problem, but it will be a problem. Again, liberals seem to be crowing that we don’t need any of these changes, yet ignore the fiscal realities! If we don’t change anything, we won’t have a safety net left! But it sadly seems more important to score short-term political points than to address these realities.
Finally, you (and others) keep using phrases like “abolish Medicare” and “tax breaks for the rich”. As someone pointed out, Ryan replaces Medicare as we know it with a plan that Alice Rivlin has offered some support for: make it more like a defined contribution plan and empower seniors to choose their preferred heatlh care policies tailored to their needs. The current system is, again, totally divorced from any market responses and a result seniors spend disastrous amounts on health care. Now you might view this as fine, but let’s be clear, that is an ideological point of view, just as ideological as saying each person who can should bear the primary responsibility for their own health care. As for taxes, Ryan’s plan does not raise taxes, and that is, in my opinion, one of the faults. I think everyone knows that there will be a tax increase in the ultimate compromise. BUT what Ryan does do and what liberals like you should congratulate him for, is to enact common sense tax reform that would reduce the tax brackets to about 3 or 4 and eliminate the loopholes and tax subsidies that BOTH parties have lit up the tax code with for years! Obama has talked about it, but Ryan is proposing to do it!
Again, until I see a viable liberal alternative, the nastiness of Krugman et. al. aside, I don’t think anyone should be judging Ryan’s motives. I think it unbecoming not only of civilized debate, but of Catholic Christian thinking as well. Shame on Steinfels!
“It is neither a serious nor conservative budget plan because it does not address our bloated military. The US all by itself accounts for 43% of all military spending on the planet. Do something about THAT entitlement (talk about fear-tactics.)”
FALSE! Please try again and READ the Plan before you attack it!!!! Ryan proposes $178 BILLION in defense cuts that were proposed by Sec. Gates (and which, yet again Obama has done NOTHING ON!).
“FALSE! Please try again and READ the Plan before you attack it!!!! Ryan proposes $178 BILLION in defense cuts that were proposed by Sec. Gates (and which, yet again Obama has done NOTHING ON!).”
TRUE! Please try to both read and understand the Plan before you defend it:
“Ryan’s plan applauds the administration’s efforts to make the Pentagon more efficient and allows Defense Secretary Robert Gates to take $100 billion he squeezed out of existing programs and operations and spend it on high-priority programs.
An additional $78 billion in savings would be applied to deficit reduction under Gates’ plan, which Ryan approves.
“We think Bob Gates is doing a pretty good job,” Ryan said.”
So let’s parse this out. Of your $178B, $100B goes right back into defense. So the net is $78B. A drop in the bucket. But in any case, one can’t have a small “conservative” government with a massive military infrastructure. Ryan’s “serious” cuts are just the same old GOP sideshow.
@Jeff Landry (3:35 pm) Jeff, thanks for your response and your continued contributions to our collective efforts at “clarification of thought”. My apologies for the length of my last post; I’ll try to be more concise this time.
I agree with you that, on balance, the ACA does more to expand coverage than it does to cut costs. One of the cost-cutting measures it does include, if I recall correctly, is a tax on high-end health insurance plans. (Perhaps not as significant as McCain’s proposal, but a step in the right direction and one that required the Democrats to persuade the AFL-CIO not to oppose.
At the risk of repeating myself, I disagree with your contention that “no one seriously believes that ACA will cut health care costs”. The Congressional Budget Office believes it, based on their independent, nonpartisan analysis. As I recall, Democrats repeatedly revised their bills so as to produce legislation that would “score” as deficit-reducing for both 10 and 20 year projections by the CBO.
I think markets are wonderful. Efficient markets require many buyers, many sellers and relatively equal information for all parties. This is perhaps a separate debate, but my view is that even the private sector portion of our health care system is a long way from being an efficient market, and I’m not aware of countries similar to the US that have health care systems based primarily on a marketplace approach. (But always willing to be educated if you or anyone else is aware of such countries!)
Regarding “entitlement program reform”, we may have a difference of terminology more than anything else. The point I was trying to make is that health care inflation is, by far, the biggest driver of future government expenditures and is also arguably the biggest single threat to the employer-based portion of our health insurance system. We agree that Social Security will face challenges 30+ years from now; my view is that those challenges are—compared to health care, military spending, and taxation debates—relatively smaller.
I think we’re long overdue for an overhaul of the tax code (last one done in 1986). I’ll have to study Ryan’s proposal more closely to see what I think of it; and I thank you for lifting up that part of his proposal.
@Jeff Landry @ 3:37 pm Sorry to butt in, but I think you and unagidon are making different points. You correctly point out that Ryan includes the decreases in the growth (not actual “cuts” as far as I know) of Pentagon spending, and that’s not nothing (as they say). (By the way, aren’t Gates’ proposals in the FY 2012 budget Obama submitted several weeks ago?) I think unagidon is pointing out how relatively small Ryan’s proposal is in the grand scheme of things.
Personally, I’d love to see (but don’t expect to from Republicans or Democrats), for example, a 5-10 year defense plan that ends our three current wars and cuts our military spending to, say, 30% of global military spending, or a sum not greater than the amount spent by the next 5-10 largest military powers combined (to give a couple of “pie in the sky” examples).
Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget does, however, manage to slash taxes on people making the most while raising them on everyone else. This I’m told, by a legion of political pundits who make enough money that their kids won’t need Pell grants or food stamps, is very brave. Even the older folks who voted Republican will get to keep their Medicare as Ryan abolishes it for future generations.
Really, all that’s happening here is Ryan is punishing Democratic constituencies and rewarding Republican ones. That’s a lot of things, maybe even smart, but it’s not brave.
I am leary of monopolizing space and also becoming the mouthpiece for the conservative side.
Suffice it to say, Luke, that I agree with much of your analysis, or at least see its reasonableness. Again, the plans that you and I would probably devise to address these issues would probably look somewhat different, but overall we agree on the problem, which is a start. I would quibble with one point re: the CBO scoring. As most analysts have pointed out, the CBO score ASSUMES that Congress will enact the tax increases that are slated to kick in in 2014 (I think that’s the year). I don’t hold my breath for that happening. If you take out that assumption, the CBO score looks different.
As for defense spending, whatever the final amount or method, I have now seen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Tom Coburn say that defense cuts should be on the table; I have not seen one single liberal pet project offered up. Again, all I’ve seen is scare tactics and attacks on Ryan’s character, intelligence, sincerity, and bravery. Change is NOT an option. My frustration with Obama is that he has talked all this talk, but is failing to lead; where is HIS plan? Where is the Democrats’ plan? Oh I know, I know, tax “the rich”.
“As for defense spending, whatever the final amount or method, I have now seen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Tom Coburn say that defense cuts should be on the table; I have not seen one single liberal pet project offered up. Again, all I’ve seen is scare tactics and attacks on Ryan’s character, intelligence, sincerity, and bravery. Change is NOT an option. My frustration with Obama is that he has talked all this talk, but is failing to lead; where is HIS plan? Where is the Democrats’ plan? Oh I know, I know, tax “the rich”.”
I’m afraid that the only scare tactics I am seeing here are that we MUST fix Medicare NOW or we are going to have a disaster. This isn’t true. What is true is that our defense spending is the government spending that is taking money away from everything else and our lightweight tax laws in the context of wealth moving to the an ever smaller percentage of the population creates no other source of taxes. You don’t offer an argument about why we need to keep tax levels steady and cut spending.
@Jeff Landry 5:54 pm I’m not necessarily a huge fan of CBO scoring either, but it does seem to be the agreed upon arbiter for these matters (kind of like referees in a game—nobody likes them but they’ve got a job to do).
Re: Obama and his role, for what it’s worth he put forward a budget plan several weeks ago. For better or worse this is the system we have: the president proposes a budget, the House debates and votes on a budget, the Senate debates and votes on a budget, the House and Senate confer and agree on a compromise which the president signs.
David Frum (www.frumforum.com) had an interesting take on Ryan’s proposal. His view is that Ryan’s proposal is fundamentally a document whose audience is the Republican party itself—stating or reasserting that they are the party of small government and fiscal conservatism. Frum (a former Bush speechwriter) says it’s not really a budget proposal (because it would never pass the Senate), or an electioneering ploy (since the presidential nominee will determine that message next year), or a negotiating tool (since it’s so blatantly hostile to Democratic interests and likely to be unpopular with the general public). I don’t know if I agree with him, but I thought he had an interesting perspective.
Kevin Drum doesn’t like Paul Ryan’s proposal either…but that’s what you’d expect from a blogger/writer at Mother Jones magazine. What’s different about Drum is he offers his own more-or-less off the cuff budget balancing grand bargain/proposal:
“Start with letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Add in Social Security reform that increases payroll tax revenue by about 1% of GDP and trims benefits by about 1% of GDP. Set a goal of cutting defense spending to 3% of GDP. Federalize Medicaid. Build on the reforms of ACA to rein in Medicare growth in a reasonable way starting now, a la Ryan-Rivlin. Raise additional revenue via a carbon tax and revenue positive tax reform. Agree on some genuinely bipartisan program cuts in areas like ethanol subsidies, farm support, and some of the least effective social programs. Keep PAYGO in place to restrain the growth of discretionary spending.
Something along these lines would be a genuine proposal. It takes from both left and right, it’s not balanced entirely on the backs of the poor, and it deals realistically with the needs of an aging nation. ”
More food for thought.
“. . . your comment seems mighty immature and blatantly unfair to me.’
This name-calling, not an argument. Cut it out.
Ryan proposes to cut down the size of the government drastically. This implies large reductions in government personnel, which would result in more hundreds of thousands of people out of work, people who would both draw on unemployment benefits and not pay taxes because they’ll be out of work, Plus they will have no money for discretionary spending.
I wonder what the immediate cost to the economy would be for this down-sizing. I can’t help but think it would weaken the stimulus program in a noticeable way.
Contrast all the demagoguery, pouting and childish name-calling above with these thoughtful comments from the New York Times by David Brooks, a solid middle-of-the-roader (with a huge crush on Adjunct Professor Obama):
- Rep. Ryan’s plan is “the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes….His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion.”
- “The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.”
- Rep. Ryan’s plan “emphasizes social support, social mobility and personal choice….it is a serious effort to create a sustainable welfare state…”
On another point raised above, anyone honestly looking into the claims that Obama’s illegal health care takeover will reduce the deficit is unlikely to be persuaded.
@j.a.m. (10:44 pm) Thanks for adding Mr. Brooks’ opinions to our discussion. (I must confess that I often react to his writing the way someone—I forget who—reacted to William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale”—that he would think and write more clearly and logically if he’d had a Jesuit education.)
Regarding your assertion that the Affordable Care Act is “illegal”, all I can say is, we’ll see when the Supreme Court rules whether all or part of it is unconstitutional. Until then, it’s the law of the land. It’s worth repeating, I think that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance (which is at the heart of the claims of unconstitutionality) was first popularized in policy circles by the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s, and throughout the W. Bush administration it was the endorsed by most conservatives, including candidate McCain in 2008, if I recall correctly.
It seems that in your final sentence you are asserting that the analysts at the Congressional Budget Office who concluded that the ACA would reduce the deficit did not conduct their analysis “honestly”. Is that in fact what you are asserting? If so, why and on what basis? If not, would you please elaborate and clarify what you mean? Thank-you.
Luke, any forecast is based on assumptions — i.e., opinions. One person’s assumption is another person’s gimmick. CBO works with the parameters the politicians give it. My point simply is that an assessment of competing claims is unlikely to convince an impartial observer that Obamacare will reduce the deficit.
People can do their own research, but since you like to cite Heritage, here’s one piece they published:
@Ann (8:47) – you took a quip from a response to a comment suggesting that Paul Ryan “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and is “lying”. THAT is name-calling. Mr. Ryan is by all accounts (including President Obama’s – which I quoted above) a well-regarded and well-intentioned budget expert. I am expressing dismay at a well-regarded Catholic commentator dismissing his budget in the shallowest of terms.
@unigidon – if you read my comments, I have admitted that I think the ultimate deal MUST include tax increases. I am mildly in favor of a millionaire’s tax. But in your attacks on me, you still have not responded to my criticism: President Obama has talked all this talk, but has not ACTED. His own debt commission proposed a plan that would cut spending, reform entitlements, AND increase taxes. He has IGNORED those recommendations. MOreover he has increased defense costs by getting us involved in Libya and committing to an open-ended Afghan war. I humbly submit you shuold take your complaint first to the door of the White House.
@Luke – Because Ryan’s proposal would never reach the Senate floor, and if it did (and passed) Obama would veto it, of course it is a political document primarily intended to present a conservative vision. Does that make it, ipso facto, invalid or wrong? No, as you say the President proposed a budget that is also a political document that represents HIS views of the relationship between government and citizen. And I think j.a.m. adequately addresses CBO scoring – yes it is the political arbiter, but it is only as good as the assumptions it is given, and both parties are won’t to give it gimmicky assumptions. That is not a knock on CBO.
“This “speaking to ourselves” mission explains many things about the plan that are otherwise puzzling.
* Why are there no revenue enhancements of any kind — not even fees or excise taxes that have no negative impact on incentives or savings?
* Why is Medicare protected in its existing form for a decade while the changes to Medicaid go into effect immediately?
* Why is Social Security exempted entirely?
* Why is agriculture treated so lightly — $30 billion in savings over 10 years, all of them (interestingly) to be decided by the Agriculture Committee, a unique concession by a Budget Committee otherwise determined to centralize decision-making?
Pose these questions and the answers become obvious:
These days, Americans over 55 vote heavily Republican. Under-55s lean Democratic, under-30s overwhelmingly so. (That’s the reverse, by the way, of the situation that prevailed as recently as the 1980s). Farmers vote Republican. Medicaid recipients do not. The deficit grows because the deficit reduction plan includes a big additional tax cut to upper-income taxpayers. And so on.
Well, that’s politics. The president’s health care and stimulus plans were larded with much grosser payoffs to Democratic constituencies.
But notice what Ryan’s plan does not do.
It does not credibly address the number one concern of Americans: jobs. The job numbers attached to the plan have become instant targets of ridicule. Not even the actual authors of the numbers believe them. See Noah Kristula Green’s article at FrumForum.com:
The Ryan budget touts analysis from the Heritage Foundation which argues that the unemployment rate will reach 2.8% by 2021. (For comparison, ‘natural’ unemployment is estimated to be around 5%.) FrumForum contacted the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis to ask about this figure. Heritage responded that they came to this conclusion using a CBO baseline as they were requested to do, and that they view the baseline they were asked to use as one which was too optimistic to begin with.
More surprising still, the debt reduction plan actually increases the debt over the medium term — by even more President Obama’s budget would. Ryan’s plan tries to minimize this awkward fact by inserting it within a chart on page 57 that portrays the deficit from 1960 to 2080, a long enough timeframe wherein the worsening of the deficit situation over the period from 2012 to 2021 seems to shrink into historic insignificance.
The real message of the Ryan plan is: Upper-income tax cuts now; spending cuts for the poor now; more deficits now; spending cuts for middle-income people much later; spending cuts for today’s elderly, never.
Jobs first, deficit later is actually the right timing of priorities. But the upper-income tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 markedly failed to translate into higher incomes for ordinary Americans. The Ryan plan offers no reason to hope that another round of the same medicine will deliver better results.”
I just found this on Ross Douthat’s blog on the NY Times. Its very good at summarizing what’s good about the plan, and what he (AS A CONSERVATIVE) thinks is wrong/dumb/outlandish about the plan. (PS – Its called ANALYSIS, Commonweal>)
@Jeff Landry—thanks for the link to Douthat’s thoughtful reflections.
Just to clarify my own thinking, I have no objection to Ryan’s proposal being a “political document”. Every budget reflects its author(s)’ values and interests. I find myself in some agreement with Frum and Douthat in that I am surprised at how the politics of Ryan’s proposal seem at first blush to be directed primarily, indeed almost exclusively, towards the conservative base of the Republican party.
[Obama's budget plan, by contrast, when it was released several weeks ago immediately received howls of protest from many liberals for its proposed cuts in programs like LIHEAP (low-income heating assistance program) and CSBG (community service block grants).]
I would have expected from Ryan a budget proposal that spoke both to the values and interests of conservative Republicans, but also to the values and interests of moderate Americans (of whatever political affiliation). Such a proposal would conceivably be both good conservative policy (promote economic growth, individual responsibility and family stability, limit taxes and the size of government) and good conservative politics (by winning moderate support and setting the stage for retaking the Senate and White House in 2012). Whatever its merits, this proposal doesn’t seem to do that.
“Whatever its merits, this proposal doesn’t seem to do that.”
Well I’m not so sure I agree with that. I’m not political witchdoctor, but if you had just won an impressive electoral sweep by carrying Independent voters by near 20 percentage points, and exit polls showed those voters being most concerned about government spending, wouldn’t you then craft a budget that you believe reflects those concerns? At the same time, Ryan is doing no favors to his party by making the bold proposals to plans like Medicare and Medicaid, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that he’s simply throwing red meat to his base. At the end of the day, this does seem to reignite some ideological battles that have been largely swept under the rug in recent administrations (I think of CLinton and the DLC in particular). Ryan’s budget is built on the premise that Americans (as Douthat says) should have maximum choice in their own lives, and that government programs shuold be aimed at serving those most needy, and that the tax base for these services should be broad and relatively low. The Democrats, too, have their ideological commitments, i..e MORE government dependence is good, and that these services should be paid for primarily by the “rich” and therefore the tax base should be narrowed and significantly steeper. Right now, it seems like the average voter can’t make up their mind which vision they prefer. In the abstract, people like taxing “the rich”, but when you begin to actually crunch the numbers, and show them what “rich” would be, they get very skittish. The same is true of government spending; they seem to favor smaller, more efficient government in the end, but when you start crunching, things look different.
Jeff and Luke, I am enjoying your stimulating conversation, which gives the lie to allegations here that C’wealers are not interested in analyzing Ryan’s proposal (and some of those who often only lob stink bombs have actually joined in the conversation, too). Especially appreciated the link to Douthat’s take on Ryan’s proposal.
Please continue, all.
“@Ann (8:47) – you took a quip from a response to a comment suggesting that Paul Ryan “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and is “lying”. THAT is name-calling.”
Here is my post:
[You to somebody else.;“”. . . your comment seems mighty immature and blatantly unfair to me.’
[Me to you} “This name-calling, not an argument. Cut it out.”
The first statement is one you made to somebody else. The second is my comment on your statement. Your statement *is* name-calling. It’s the pot calling the kettle black, or what the logicians call the fallacy of tu tuoque. Doesn’t wash.
When the 2012 budget meets the legislative process (not this week apparently), would we be surpised to find that all those elected to the House because independent voters want buget cuts are likely to behave just as they are now when their constituents have found out that the earmarks will not be coming for the new bridge or road repairs? At best, they are behaving sheepishly. At worst, betraying their cost-cutting promises by maneuvering for the funds.
@Jeff Landry (12:14 pm) We agree that, as you concisely put it, “Ryan is doing no favors to his party by making the bold proposals to plans like Medicare and Medicaid”. I’m no health policy analyst (far from it!) but one concern I’ve seen raised by health policy analysts is that Ryan’s plan does more “cost-shifting” than “cost-cutting”. In other words, the bulk of the health care “savings” (more immediately for Medicaid, later for Medicare) consists of requiring individuals (in this case the poor, the elderly and the very young) to pay an increasingly large percentage of costs out of their own pockets.
David Frum has a new post today (www.frumforum.com/what-the-ryan-budget-gets-right) in which he praises Ryan’s plan because it 1) “accepts that tax cuts must be “paid for” with offsets elsewhere in the budget. That’s a welcome departure from the tax cut + borrow approach of the past”; and 2) “redirects Republicans away from the illusion that budgets can be balanced with cuts to NPR, foreign aid, etc. The money is in healthcare – and Ryan has started an important Republican discussion about healthcare.” (He makes several additional points.)
Ezra Klein at the Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein) has several recent posts about Ryan’s proposal, including one last night titled “10 Concluding Thoughts on Ryan’s Budget”. Klein’s a liberal reporter/blogger who has covered health closely for the last few years, and knows the ins and outs of that issue pretty well.
@Luke – I follow Klein, too. I usually read him together with Reihan Salam at National Review who usually go back and forth pretty good. Even thought I understand about half of it, I figure the truth is somewhere in the middle (probably a little closer to Salam because of my politics). He has an interesting post on the Medicare proposals that I link below. Esp insightful is his second point, where he quotes someone saying we basically need an ‘all of the above’ approach, i.e. some tax rates AND people paying more out of pocket.
I think one aspect of this neglected, esp in the “he’s just hurting the poor people” arguments is that Ryan would introduce means-testing into the program, which would determine what level of premium support people would receive. That means that poorer people would receive more help than their wealthier counterparts. I assume that we could all agree that this is a laudatory concept. And it gives the lie to the “he’s just out for the rich” argument.
@Ann – I’m not really interested in a tit-for-tat. I was expressing dismay at a well-known Catholic commentator calling Paul Ryan an idiot and a liar (really with no justification other than to a link to Paul Krugman who makes name-calling an art form). THAT is name-calling, I think we can both agree, and is also blatantly unfair. So yes I did label some another person’s comments, but I think those labels were justified and I stand by them. Maybe we can both agree that “arguments” that attack the intellect or good-intentions of people we disagree with should be, for a Catholic publication, beyond the pale?
Having studied the matter further, I conclude that Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about in the sense that he is politically naive as to the trajectory of what he proposes and the outcome of any extended congressional debate. That’s the best case I can make for the proposal.
“I conclude that Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about in the sense that he is politically naive as to the trajectory of what he proposes and the outcome of any extended congressional debate.”
I completely disagree that Ryan is “naive” as to the political trajectory; he recognizes full well that the Democrats will not bring it up in the Senate and the President, contrary to his lectures about fiscal responsibility, would veto it were it to pass. I laud Ryan, however, for delivering on a promise to present a budget plan that tackles entitlement reform. Ever since Pres. Obama has been elected, Democrats have called the GOP the Party of “No” without any viable plan. Ryan has turned that on his head. The ball is in the President’s court; again he likes to lecture on fiscal responsibility, but where is HIS plan? And if, as is reported in the political press today, the WH is going to use the Ryan plan as a political ploy WITHOUT issuing their plan, how is that not the worst kind of politics, the kind of shallow, zero-sum game political gamesmanship liberals so often accuse Republicans of engaging in and which the president has supposedly forsworn. Where is HIS leadership? You may not like Ryan’s plan, but at least he has kicked off the conversation.
Under Ryan’s plan, the Republican Party (or at least a part of it) is the party of Destroy, and not simply the part of NO.
“And if, as is reported in the political press today, the WH is going to use the Ryan plan as a political ploy WITHOUT issuing their plan, how is that not the worst kind of politics, the kind of shallow, zero-sum game political gamesmanship liberals so often accuse Republicans of engaging in and which the president has supposedly forsworn. Where is HIS leadership? You may not like Ryan’s plan, but at least he has kicked off the conversation.” Has Ryan kicked any real entitlement reform so far down the road that no one will tackle it? Just a thought.
Its sad; I see Commonweal’s motto is “Independent, Catholic, Opinionated.” Well, at least one of those things is true – Opinionated, more precisely “liberal” opinion.
Given that the ONLY links Ms. Steinfels provides are to uniformly liberal criticisms of Ryan’s plan, it sure as hell isn’t “independent”.
And given the above, it sure as hell isn’t “Catholic” if by “Catholic” we mean, as Graham Greene beautifully said “here comes everything.
Interesting she has turned the comments off as well. So much for free and fair debate.
Interested to know Ms. Steinfels, do you disagree with the Presidential Fiscal Commission’s prognostications about our fiscal situation if we change nothing re: entitlement programs? If you agree with them, then unless you do something, the party of destruction will be the feckless politicians who stood by and said nothing while a financial tsunami came towards us. See Greece, see Ireland, see Portugal.
I find myself less and less inspired by “Catholic” journalism, left and right; they are increasingly bigger pawns for their respective camps than Fox or MSNBC.
They post a childish rant and turn off the comments?
Now, that’s rich.
I trust I’ve written enough in this thread to demonstrate that I’m not one of those stereotypical liberals who reads the NY Times op-ed page to decided what to think. That’s a preface to saying that I think David Brooks and Paul Krugman’s columns in today’s Times represent a pretty concise summary of the strengths and weaknesses of Rep. Ryan’s FY2012 budget proposal.
As you’d expect, Krugman is the more critical—bitingly so. It’s worth remembering that in the 1990s Krugman was best known as a more-or-less typical neoliberal economist with an interest in public affairs. It was the economic proposals made by George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential campaign that first gained Krugman a reputation for being shrill. At that time many pundits praised Bush’s proposals and criticized Al Gore for the way in which he responded. Krugman, being an economist, looked at the numbers and economic assumptions in the Bush plan and found they didn’t add up.
He finds the same problem with the Ryan plan:
*The Heritage Foundation analysis on which the plan is based originally assumed that unemployment would fall to 2.8%—a wildly optimistic scenario that Heritage has now changed.
*Heritage assumes that major tax cuts will lead to increased tax revenues, an assumption the CBO does not share—and that is not borne out by the experience of the Reagan and Bush tax cuts of the early 1980s and 2000s.
*The plan assumes that federal spending—excluding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—will fall from its current 12% of GDP, to 6% of GDP by 2022, and 3.5% of GDP in the long run. So, for example, if defense spending fell to 3.5% of GDP (lower than it has been since before WW II), then there would be no federal spending on anything else at all.
In short, the numbers don’t work. (This, to me, is the most mystifying part of Ryan’s proposal—that he didn’t put more effort into making the numbers work. Whether you agree with the CBO’s figures or not, at least congressional Democrats made an effort—and made changes that they didn’t like—to get a baseline of numerical/economic credibility in the ACA.)
Because Brooks was so full of praise for Ryan’s plan earlier this week, his column today is perhaps the more interesting because he acknowledges “several grave weaknesses” in the plan:
*it’s too extreme to be become law.
*it doesn’t address job creation and wage stagnation.
*it doesn’t address rising health care costs.
*it doesn’t call for higher taxes (Brooks makes this point indirectly by stating his preference for federal tax revenues at 20% of GDP, as opposed to Ryan’s 18% of GDP).
*it doesn’t require any sacrifice from those 56 and older (put another way by Krugman, 2/3 of the proposed spending cuts in the next 10 years affect the poor and disabled).
Brooks concludes by saying “we still need a calm discussion about controlling health care costs”. Perhaps he’s saving his thoughts on that for another column. If so, I hope he will use his “bully pulpit” as a prominent conservative commentator to call on Republicans to demonstrate their “bona fides” on that issue. Given how Republicans stonewalled the ACA in the last Congress, and then won the House by campaign against “Democratic Medicare cuts”, it seems to me they a responsibility to take the lead if they want a “calm discussion” on health care costs.
Well at least they’re posting Brooks now, although cherry-picking the parts of the column that props up their view.
But I find it interesting and must point out the fact that the most interesting analyses, criticisms and debates on the Ryan plan, nay the budget as a whole, are occuring right now among CONSERVATIVES and conservative-leaning policy thinkers. And I agree with you, Luke, I just cannot read Krugman anymore. “Shrill” hits the nail on the head. He is bitter and too angry for me. Again, I don’t want to represent that I think the Ryan plan is fiscal Gospel; it is flawed. BUT, as a conservative, but more importantly as a young person interested in policy, to me it is the most interesting re-examination of the mammoth welfare state that is out there today. And as I have said again and again and again, and as the now-in Mr. Brooks says today, change is coming to the welfare state, its just a matter of how and when you address it. But you cannot have the open-ended entitlement programs on such unsustainable footing as we presently have without making some changes.
Interesting post on how increasing marginal tax rates on the rich will not ALONE solve the crisis (and makes the point too that if we’re going to go the “tax hike only” method, we’re going to have to tax A LOT more people, which as Brooks points out, no Democrat wants to own up to).
PS – Its sad to me that none of these people I’m following are explicitly Catholic. Why are Catholics so bad at economics?
I don’t know whether he’s Catholic but Bruce Bartlett has a MA from Georgetown, worked for the Reagan and H. W. Bush administrations and (like Frum) lost his job at a conservative think tank for his criticisms of the W. Bush administration. Here’s the closing paragraph of his column at http://www.thefiscaltimes.com regarding Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal:
“Distributionally, the Ryan plan is a monstrosity. The rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social safety net would be shredded to pay for them. Even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the Democrats, the Ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. It is less of a wish list than a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. Ryan’s plan isn’t even an act of courage; it’s just pandering to the Tea Party. A real act of courage would have been for him to admit, as all serious budget analysts know, that revenues will have to rise well above 19 percent of GDP to stabilize the debt.”
Jeff, one of the challenges of belonging to the largest voluntary association on earth, i.e. the Catholic Church, is there’s no shortage of fellow Catholics to disappoint you—either by their inactions or their actions. (So, for example, it pains me that my brother in Christ, Paul Ryan, has put forward a proposal that appears to place its greatest burdens on the poor, the children (Food Stamps, Medicaid and education cuts), and the disabled while (contra Luke 12:48) expecting/asking little or nothing of those to whom much has been given.
Was there ever a time when Republicans and Democrats in Congress were able to be functional: to build coalitions and find ways to compromise on sweeping social legislation? I’d be extremely disappointed if Ryan’s plan is subjected to a binary, thumbs-up/thumbs-down decision.
Could Republicans and Democrats unite around fiscal responsibility? Some of the grave weaknesses of the Ryan plan have now been brought to light; so, in the interest of fiscal responsibility, could the two sides work together to shore up those weaknesses?
Istm that the tax formulas could be reswizzled, and PPA un-repealed, without fundamentally altering the good things to be accomplished by this proposal: getting Medicaid and Medicare onto a solid financial footing.
Ahh, Luke, we were doing so well and then you had to dive head-first into the moonbat rhetoric. AGain, if you asked Ryan, he would say his goal is not to rip the rug out from under the needy, but to reform and preserve programs for the neediest in light of the avalanche of debt coming due that otherwise threatens the very existence of those programs. Now, of course he does this in a conservative fashion, i.e. a commitment to the idea that lightly-regulated markets most efficiently distribute goods and services and that what shuold be maximized is individual choice and responsibility rather than coercive government programs. That said, Ryan is, at the end of the day, a politician, and politicians will always go for the least-risk, greatest reward means of doing things. When it comes to that fact, I say a pox on all their houses!
BUT, what chaps me about some of the liberal reaction (including some on here) is the following. For YEARS, as a Republican, I’ve endured the “You have no plan/Party of NO” rants of my Democrat friends. And by and large we’ve lived up to that – until now. Ryan has proposed a pretty interesting plan. And what’s the reaction? Outrage – because the plan is conservative, because it does shift some costs from government to indviduals (that is not ALWAYS wrong), and because it proposes to shrink the size of government. “No, your plan is terrible, it is unfair, it hurts all these poor and old and vulnerable people (even though most of them are above 55 now and won’t be touched by a single Ryan proposal)!”
So I respond to my Democrat (CAtholic and otherwise) friends thus. Fine, you think Ryan’s plan is illegitimate. Show me your plan. Convince me that, in light of the looming fiscal crisis that is coming, you will BOTH maintain current levels of spending, keep Medicare and Medicaid benefits steady AND AT THE SAME TIME increase social security benefits and create (basically) another new open-ended entitlement in ACA all by only taxing “the rich”. Show me how you can do that, because I think its a fairy-tale. That is likely not to happen because as David Brooks (again) has pointed out, you’re going to have to tax A LOT more people A LOT more in order to pass that. And at the end of the day, taxes do affect people’s economic behaviors and do affect the nations’ economic activity, and taking all of Rupert Murdoch’s money and the Koch Bros.’s money won’t change that. At least Ryan has proposed a (an imperfect, incomplete) plan, but it has generated a serious debate that it would be nice if some serious minded liberals would be interested in making better rather than just taking pot shorts, for electoral gains or otherwise. The example for this Welfare Reform. Out the sturm und drag when a little known Gov. in Wisconsin suggested capping welfare benefits and tying it to work. THE OUTRAGE!! And then Daniel Patrick Moynihan got involved. Where is the Democrats’ Moynihan today?
@Jeff Landry (12:42 pm) Oops, sorry. I didn’t think I was using “moonbat rhetoric”—although in fairness Bartlett’s conclusion that I cited is pretty harsh. I included it because I was, frankly, somewhat shocked at the harshness of Bartlett’s rhetoric. He’s someone I consider a conservative, and I think still considers himself a conservative, despite his recent falling out with NCPA (his longtime employer). I think the reactions of “Reagan Republicans” like Bartlett, Brooks and Frum are (most likely) cautionary signs for Ryan’s plan and its future.
As for a Democratic plan, here’s an excerpt from Kevin Drum’s blog (www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum) on why Democrats are unlikely to propose a long-term solution to health care costs in general and Medicare in particular:
“So fine: if we want to solve Medicare’s long-term problems, we’re going to need a combination of smarter policies, reduced spending, and increased taxes. This is the admission that Brooks wants, and I’m happy to own up to it. But the truth is that liberal wonks have been owning up to this for years, and Democratic members of Congress are generally willing to own up to it as well — as long as they have some support from Republicans too. Does anyone really doubt that?
But of course they never get that support. It’s Republicans, not Democrats, who tremble like small children before the terrifying gaze of Grover Norquist and are consistently unwilling to face fiscal realities. As soon as a few of them work up the courage to start tearing up those tax jihad pledges that Norquist has bullied them into signing over the years, then maybe we can talk. Until then, it’s pretty clear which party is standing in the way of finding real solutions.” (4/8/11)
I think that’s a thumbnail sketch of how many Democrats view the landscape. Your mileage may vary as to their accuracy, but I strongly suspect that absent some Republican willingness to raise taxes, Democrats are unlikely to see any benefit to proposing their own plan.
Second, as my own little contribution to a Democratic fiscal plan, here are some ideas:
*let the Bush tax cuts expire (for everyone) in 2013 (as currently scheduled).
*rewrite the corporate tax code (it hasn’t been done since 1986)—eliminate a bunch of the tax expenditures and special breaks that have crept into the code over the last 25 years, have some kind of mandatory minimum so that hugely profitable corporations like GE, Bank of America, Citigroup, etc. can’t end up paying less in income tax that the average school crossing guard. Lower the top corporate rate so it’s more in line with other industrialized democracies.
*A progressive estate tax.
*Federal government revenue/spending has averaged about 21% of GDP for the past generation. It’s now down around 18% I think. With an aging population, and health care inflation higher than general inflation, the federal government probably should grow to 22 – 25 % of GDP, both taxes and spending.
*After a few years of implementation and experimentation with the ACA, take the best practices and lessons learned and implement them nationally—whatever they are.
*At some point in the next 5-10 years do a Social Security “fix” not unlike the 1980s fix: modest revenue increases, modest benefit cuts.
Here’s a fact I try always to keep in mind in these debates: we are an enormously wealthy nation. I’m not looking to punish the rich, or reward the poor, or instigate class warfare. I’m just hoping we can collectively make decisions that allow as many people as possible to live their lives with dignity and respect.
@Jim Pauwels (12:34 pm) As to your first question, I think the answer, historically speaking, is that the middle third (or so) of the 20th century was a time with a great deal of bipartisanship in the Congress. I think most historians and political scientists who have looked at it have concluded that’s because of the peculiar party composition due to the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Democrats were, by the mid-20th century, the party of conservative whites in the South and the working-class in the North. So, for example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed in part because Sen. Everett Dirksen could round up northern Republican votes.
After the Johnson landslide of 1964 and the backlash that accompanied the Fair Housing Act (in the north) and the Voting Rights Act (in the South), the parties realigned. The “Rockefeller Republicans” lost control of their party and gradually migrated into the Democratic party. Southern conservative whites followed Strom Thurmond out of the Democratic party and gradually became Republicans.
Long story short, I doubt we’ll see much bipartisanship in the near future. If the Senate were to reform its rules so that an electoral majority could enact its agenda more easily, then we might see more progress on these issues as each party takes its turn at enacting its solutions and the voters ratify (or reject) those solutions.