First Reviews Don’t Look Promising for the House Republican Budget

For Immediate Release:

March 8, 2013

Prior to its unveiling next week, several economists, op-eds and news sources have been taking a look at the proposals Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has discussed including in the House Republican Budget. It appears there is consensus: as in years past, Rep. Paul Ryan relies on fuzzy math, revenues from the fiscal cliff deal – an admission that revenues do in fact reduce the deficit, and drastic changes to our entitlement programs in an attempt to balance the budget within ten years.

News:

The Atlantic: “He’s promised House Republicans that his budget will balance itself in a decade — instead of three, as his earlier budgets did. But he’s also promised that his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system wouldn't effect anyone over the age of 55. Paul Ryan simply cannot do both of those things.” [The Atlantic, 3/5]

Fiscal Times: “But to achieve that without tax increases or crimping national security, House Republicans would likely have to cut deeply into Medicare benefits, eviscerate discretionary spending, or rig their budget numbers in a way that undermines their credibility. Each choice could alienate voters—and refiguring Medicare has already sparked concerns a week ahead of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin unveiling the Republican budget plan for fiscal 2014.” [Fiscal Times, 3/7]

National Journal: “But rhetoric aside, the House Budget Committee chairman's budget—expected to be released next week—will almost certainly rely on all the same Medicare cuts he’s decrying. The best evidence for that? He’s used them in his last two budget proposals.” [National Journal, 3/6]

New York Times: “Mr. Ryan said his plan would bring the budget into balance in a decade, largely by sticking to the prescriptions of his last two budgets, which Mr. Obama made foils of his re-election campaign. Those include cutting spending on food stamps and social services, converting Medicare into a system that gives older people a fixed subsidy that would be used to buy insurance on the private market and turning Medicaid — the health care program for the poor — into block grants to states.” [New York Times, 3/7]

Op-Eds:

Ezra Klein, The Washington Post: “…if you look beyond the rhetoric and focus on the policy, House Republicans are proposing much harsher spending cuts this year than they did last year. On fiscal issues, the party has moved far to the right since the election.  They’re helped in that effort by the “fiscal cliff” deal, which added more than $600 billion in tax revenues to the bottom line. But that’s not nearly enough to get them to balance by 2024. And so they’re going to need to propose much deeper cuts than in their previous budgets. Ryan is reportedly considering breaking the GOP’s promise to keep Medicare unchanged for everyone over age 55.” [Washington Post, 3/5/13]

Matt Miller, The Washington Post: “To be sure, I expect Ryan’s new blueprint to be another exercise in faith-based budgeting, a duplicitous document that pretends once more that taxes don’t need to rise as the baby boomers retire and we double the number of people on Social Security and Medicare (though Ryan will quietly bank Obama’s recent tax hikes on top earners). It will thus rely on magic asterisks while ravaging government, save for programs serving seniors and defense.” [The Washington Post, 3/6/13]

Economists and Experts:

Bob Greenstein, Founder and President, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: ““So, in assessing the budget that the chairman will release this week, the issue is not whether it's harsher than last year's proposal but whether it continues to adhere to the same extreme approach that he has embraced in prior budgets.”[Huffington Post, 3/5/13]

Marc Goldwein, policy director at the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget: “Last year’s [Ryan] budget maintained the sequester almost in its entirety – the exception being a portion of the sequester for 2013 only. That partial repeal in 2013 would have almost no effect on whether the budget is balanced in 2022 or 2023 (only interest payments). Last year’s budget needed the sequester to hit its aggressive fiscal targets, and this one will as well.” [Washington Post, 3/6/13]

Alan Auerbach, economist and budget expert at the University of California, Berkeley: “It is possible in terms of arithmetic. But it is also implausible.” [Talking Points Memo, 3/5]

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