Friday, February 17, 2012

Paul Ryan and the Magic Budget

According to Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Jeff Sessions,
Sluggish growth, stagnant wages and widespread joblessness have imperiled the economic security of millions of Americans. The president’s health-care law, which hands control of Medicare to a board of unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, jeopardizes the health and retirement security of millions of seniors. And deep reductions in our armed forces, crowded out by entitlement spending and interest on the debt, could put the national security of all Americans at risk.
A growing bipartisan consensus recognizes the core elements our country needs: responsible spending restraint; a repaired safety net; reforms that ensure real health and retirement security; and a simplified tax code oriented toward growth.
Now I ask you, is this not one of the most amazing lists of contradictions you have ever seen? We need "responsible spending restraint," but at the same time we need to repair the safety net, ensure real health and retirement security, and do something about sluggish growth and stagnant wages. How are we supposed to do all those things simultaneously?

At least the President's budget includes cost savings in two areas, Medicare and Defense. But those, according to Ryan and Sessions, are off the table, because "deep reductions" (actually less than 5 percent) in defense spending imperil our "national security," while very modest Medicare cuts and an attempt to get doctors to stop doing expensive, useless procedures jeopardize our "health and retirement security."  Actually the real threat to Americans' health security is Ryan's plan, which replaces Medicare with subsidies to buy private insurance that fall over time -- in his view this is supposed to magically lead to great private sector innovation that will make health care cheaper. This won't work, so the result will be that the insurance gets worse and worse over time, paying for less and less. But that is ok with Ryan, because care is being denied by profit-making insurance companies, not unaccountable bureaucrats.

We simply cannot have Social Security and Medicare as they are, a massive defense budget, low taxes, and a balanced budget. The math is impossible. By opposing tax increases, defense cuts, and Medicare reform, while they rant about the deficit, Ryan and Sessions have wandered into fantasy land. Their essay makes it all the more obvious their real agenda is low taxes on the rich, and they will tell any lie to keep them.

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