Marc Ambinder notes that when it comes to reducing the size of government, there’s fairly solid evidence that most Republicans in Congress aren’t walking the walk:
Paul Ryan is the Republican idea man of the hour. Karl Rove endorsed Ryan’s approach to budget reform on Glenn Beck, and whenever Republicans are asked about their preferred alternatives to the administration’s deficit reduction intentions, Ryan’s name and proposals are offered up. Hey, Republicans have ideas too. We don’t need health care reform to reduce the deficit — at least not yet.
So prominent Republicans — particularly those running for president and those who aren’t elected officials — love Paul Ryan when it’s convenient. Why is it, then, that only twelve members of the conference were willing to attach their names to his bill — and none from the leadership? One reason is that Ryan is introducing it in his capacity as a member — not as the ranking member of the budget committee.
The other reason ? Maybe they don’t want to be associated with what is a pretty far-ranging radical proposal:
– Massive, across the board tax cuts. (Cue the familiar arguments about the tax code’s progressivity and significant tax process simplification.) To balance out the revenue streams, Ryan would impose an 8.5% business consumption tax, which would, in theory, place more of a burden on middle class families than the rich, as the taxes would get passed along to consumers. Overall, it seems as if the rich would pay much less than they ordinarily would, and middle class families would pay more — even though they’d pay less income tax. The effect of these changes to the tax code on overall revenue are disputed, and the CBO hasn’t provided a full analysis yet. Depending upon assumptions, the government would either be adequately funded or starving.
– Because deficit reduction is so intimitaely linked to health reform, Ryan would focus on reducing long-term burden of Medicare and Medicaid; the programs would be significantly revamped, and eventually significantly reduced, and while the level of benefits could remain the same, the way the benefits are delivered would change — vouchers would be used to incentivize private insurance plan purchasing. They would be linked to income, which will save money, but premiums tend to rise more quickly than incomes. The criticism here is that Ryan’s plans would lead to an enormous increase in the number of people buying private insurance (he’d replace the current tax exclusion for employer payments with tax credits given directly to individuals), and would significantly reduce the size of risk pools that allow health care costs to be distributed across a given population. Ryan maintains that he would still allow seniors the option of choosing a traditional Medicare plan, and that the criticism about his elimination of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is partisan.
–Ryan endorses a version of President Bush’s partial privitization of Social Security, giving younger Americans the option of investing as much as a third of their money, and filling the multi-trillion dollar transition gap that would result by using general revenue. In other words, the rest of the government budget might have to be significantly cut in order to allow Social Security to be saved. (Ryan says this isn’t necessarily true.) The CBO concluded that “traditional retirement benefits would be reduced below those scheduled under current law for many workers who are age 55 or younger in 2011.” Benefits for current retirees would stay the same
All of this is stuff that is absolutely necessary if we are ever to have any chance at all of restoring economic growth and avoiding the calamity that will assuredly occur when our “entitlement” programs run out of money and we cannot borrow to finance them anymore.
So where are the Republicans ? Why aren’t they lining up behind Ryan ?
Maybe because it’s easier to be the party of “no” than it is to be the party of “this is what we absolutely have to do.”