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April 01, 2014 12:28 PM The New Ryan Budget: Plus Ca Change

By Ed Kilgore

Well, there’s not much new to note in Paul Ryan 3.0 Budget, other than its irrelevance in 2014 thanks in part to an earlier fiscal deal he cut with Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray. The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman has the lowlights:

The budget violates some tenets that both parties have tried to observe since the budget fights of 2011 and 2012. Those fights preserved a practice of cutting defense and nondefense programs almost equally while sparing the poorest Americans from the worst of the belt-tightening.
Mr. Ryan’s plan dispenses with such niceties.
In his plan, military spending through 2024 would actually rise by $483 billion over the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act “consistent with America’s military goals and strategies,” while nondefense spending at Congress’s annual discretion would be cut by $791 billion below those strict limits.
In all, Mr. Ryan says, spending would be cut by $5.1 trillion over the next decade. More than $2 trillion of that would come from repealing Mr. Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, a political move that has become much more difficult with the closing of the first enrollment period. As many as 10 million Americans have gotten health insurance through the law, either through private policies purchased on insurance exchanges, through expanded Medicaid or private policies purchased through brokers but subsidized by the law.
As with past budget proposals, Mr. Ryan seeks to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, then turn the health care program for the poor into block grants to the states — saving $732 billion over the decade. He would also cap and block-grant food stamps, starting in 2020, cutting that program by $125 billion in five years. The budget relies on imposing new work requirements on food stamp and welfare recipients.

As WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe points out, Ryan goes out of his way to diss Dave Camp’s tax reform proposal, which upset Wall Street with its proposed special tax on banks. And because his numbers don’t add up, Ryan has to rely on the magic asterisk of assumed future economic growth (above CBO estimates) to claim his proposal balances the budget by 2024.

The traditional Ryan “premium support” proposal for future Medicare beneficiaries is still in the package, as I predicted yesterday (congressional Republicans are on record supporting it, so why not claim the savings?).

Then there’s this:

The new budget plan is dramatically different in structure than any of Ryan’s previous proposals, which were mostly sweeping vision statements. The proposal unveiled Tuesday plods function-by-function through the dozens of appropriations categories, with the aim apparently of recommending savings in each category. That bodes well for plans to conduct a full appropriations process in the House and Senate this year, but results in more modest proposals than years past.

So you’ve got more numbers but less real explanation, much less “vision.” That sounds about right for an election-year exercise wherein Republicans aren’t looking for a direct confrontation of federal spending. But as with the earlier Ryan budgets, if the GOP wins the presidency and Congress in 2016, you could be looking at the future.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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