Paul Ryan isn’t a backbencher, he’s chairman of the House Budget Committee. As such, the budget plan he released today is a document of politics, a document of compromise. Yes, the updated “Path to Prosperity” contains the core elements of Ryanomics — tax reform, premium-support Medicare, Medicaid block granting, patient-driven health care. On these rocks, Ryan has smartly built the GOP economic agenda.
But since Ryan’s PTP also serves as the fiscal 2014 budget resolution for House Republicans, the blueprint is far from ideal:
1. If the GOP’s Medicare reform plan is such a good idea (and budget deficits are such a problem), it should be implemented before 2024. Ryan knows this, surely.
2. There’s no Social Security reform plan.
3. The plan repeals Obamacare, which is highly unlikely. Better to have shown how the ACA can be fixed.
4. The plan lowers the top tax rate to 25%, which, like an Obamacare repeal, ain’t going to happen. The reduction — the path to which remains unspecified — also will require fiscal gymnastics so as to a) not lose revenue and b) not raise taxes on the middle-class. Tax reform is an opportunity for the GOP to show it is the party of parents and kids, not just the party of heroic entrepreneurs and CEOs. Better to have a higher individual rate and dramatically reduce the current tax code’s bias against investment capital and human capital.
5. Does nondefense discretionary spending need to be cut further? Again, this is a result of having to make the numbers work while also delaying Medicare reform.
6. Why does the budget need to balance in ten years? Debt reduction doesn’t require balance, just that the economy is growing faster than the debt. While the plan does put the debt/GDP ratio on a downward trajectory — rather than merely stabilized as Obama and the Senate Democrats would do — it probably doesn’t need to be quite as steep.
I would love to see Ryan set loose to create a plan far bolder and more innovative — even if it doesn’t reduce debt quite as quickly on paper — than what, apparently, many House GOPers are ready for.