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Sunday, June 24, 2018

WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan’s budget could prove to be a perversely useful document.

Thanks to this plan, nobody can take the House Budget Committee chairman seriously anymore as a policy wonk or true deficit hawk. His budget is the work of an ideologue. It’s a bargaining ploy that even Ryan concedes is merely “a vision.”

It is full of holes and magic asterisks, the biggest being his refusal to detail any of the middle-class tax deductions he would have to scrap to get to his 25 percent income tax rate. This would represent an astonishingly large cut from the current 39.6 percent rate for incomes of over $450,000 a year.

It’s a cruel budget. To finance his largesse to the very well-off, Ryan would — through steep Medicaid cuts and the repeal of Obamacare — leave an additional 40 million to 50 million poor or moderate-income Americans without health insurance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

He’d impose big reductions for food stamps, college tuition aid, child nutrition programs and a slew of other programs that help the least among us. Even here, Ryan doesn’t come clean. He fuzzes up exactly how such cuts might be made by lumping them together in large categories.

Those who think of themselves as compassionate conservatives have a moral obligation to oppose Ryan’s design.

The Senate Democrats’ budget outlined Wednesday by Patty Murray of Washington could not be more different. It calls for $975 billion in new revenue though tax reform. In describing what Murray and her colleagues have in mind here, leadership aides pointed to a report released earlier this year by the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) that listed just over $1 trillion in loophole-closings as reflecting where Democrats will go.

In the CAP paper, about half the money comes from limits on deductions similar to those suggested by President Obama, the rest from smaller changes including measures to claw back money from oil and gas interests, hedge fund operators and the owners of corporate jets, yachts and the like.

In all, Ryan would cut close to $5 trillion in domestic spending; Murray, $493 billion. Murray has a $240 billion reduction in military spending; Ryan would restore defense spending that was cut in the sequester.