There has been much coverage of the Ryan budget plan (details here), most of it is quite predictable. Robert Reich (Christian Science Monitor) tells us that it is an expression of “pure social Darwinism. Reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it.” Paul Krugman (New York Times), always cautious about issuing ad hominem attacks, devotes most of his discussion to Ryan, who he describes as a “clown,” a “flim-flam man,” a “charlatan” and a “fraud.” Of course, he also notes that the budget is “a plan to savage the poor while giving big tax breaks to the rich.” Heather Boushey (Center for American Progress) describes it as “austerity on steroids.”
Of course, all of this is sound and fury, signifying nothing. The Ryan plan will never survive the budgetary process (not that there is anything resembling a budgetary process in the Senate). With respect to the overall fiscal impact, Nick Gillespie (Reason) lays out the stark differences:
The Ryan plan says that we will spend $3.6 trillion this year while bringing in $2.4 trillion in FY2012. In contrast, President Obama’s budget says that we will shell out $3.8 trillion in FY2012 and bring in $2.5 trillion.
Certainly, there are some interesting components–most notably, taxes and Medicare–that demand careful scrutiny. But it is difficult to make the case that a budget plan that calls for a $1.2 trillion deficit is a plan for austerity, not to mention “austerity on steroids.”
Ryan’s plan is weak tea. Here we are, years into a governmental deficit situation that shows no sign of ending. How is it that Ryan and the Republican leadership cannot even dream of balancing a budget over 10 years’ time? All of the discussion of reforming entitlements and the tax code and everything else is really great and necessary – I mean that sincerely – but when you cannot envision a way of reducing government spending after a decade-plus of an unrestrained spending binge, then you are not serious about cutting government. If Milton Friedman was right that spending is the proper measure of the government’s size and scope in everybody’s life, then the establishment GOP is signaling what we knew all along: They are simply an echo of the Democratic Party.
There was a day when the GOP could make the claim of offering “a choice, not an echo.” Unsurprisingly, the GOP learned that offering a choice was often counterproductive. With respect to fiscal responsibility, those days seem to be a thing of the past.