Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) — chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, and the Republican Party’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee — held a press conference Tuesday announcing his latest controversial budget plan.
“Will the president take every one of these solutions? Probably not. Are a lot of these solutions very popular and did we win these arguments on the campaign? Some of us think so. So what we’re saying is, here’s our offer. Here’s our vision,” Ryan told the press. “Here’s how we propose a plan to balance the budget and grow the economy, repair the safety net, save Medicare.”
How Ryan believes that he won the budget argument during the campaign — in which Democrats decisively won the White House, expanded their Senate majority, and won a plurality of the popular vote in House elections — is unclear. And although Ryan claims that his solutions are “very popular,” polls consistently suggest otherwise.
The plan, titled “The Path To Prosperity: A Responsible, Balanced Budget,” aims to cut $4.6 trillion in spending within the next 10 years by dramatically shrinking the size of the federal government. A centerpiece of Ryan’s plan is the extremely unlikely prospect of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which the congressman claims will save $1.8 trillion. Ryan does plan to keep the law’s $716 billion in Medicare savings — an issue on which he’s flip-flopped no less than four times over the past three years. Ryan also plans to cut an additional $129 billion from Medicare by turning it into what Ryan used to call a voucher, and now refers to as “premium support.”
Ryan’s budget would also cut $757 billion from Medicaid by converting the program into block grants for states, and cut an additional $926 billion by making steep cuts to programs such as food stamps, agricultural subsidies, Pell grants, and federal job-training programs, among many others.
The budget includes roughly $7 trillion in tax cuts, which Ryan claims will be offset by closing various tax loopholes. As he did during previous budget battles, however, Ryan declined to specify the loopholes that he’d close to make up the difference.
“This is what the Ways and Means Committee is going to do,” he said at the press conference.
His budget does accept the new tax rates set after the “fiscal cliff” debate in January, a concession he explained by saying, “We’re not going to fight the past.” He did not elaborate on how this philosophy squares with his continued fight against Obamacare, and arguably the entire New Deal.
Ryan bristled at the notion that his plan, which bears a striking resemblance to his previous budgets — and the Romney/Ryan ticket’s platform — was soundly rejected by voters in the 2012 election.
“The election didn’t go our way. Believe me, I know what that feels like,” Ryan said. “That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing what we believe in? Look, whether the country intended it or not, we have divided government. We have the second largest House majority we’ve had since World War II. And what we believe in this divided government era, we need to put up our vision.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid immediately blasted Ryan’s plan as “an extreme budget that is anything but balanced.”
“The Paul Ryan budget 3.0 uses the same fuzzy math as his previous two budgets,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “It relies on accounting that is creative at best and fraudulent at worst to inflate its claims of deficit reduction.”
Similarly, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement saying that Ryan’s “math just doesn’t add up,” noting that “by choosing to give the wealthiest Americans a new tax cut, this budget as written will either fail to achieve any meaningful deficit reduction, raise taxes on middle-class families by more than $2,000 – or both.”
“The Path To Prosperity: A Responsible, Balanced Budget” can be read in its entirety here
Ryan’s full press conference can be viewed here
Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster
Allison Brito contributed to this post