the national interest

GOP Releases Plan to Save America From the Poor

House Budget Chairman U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduces the House Budget Committee's FY2013 budget
The man who has the guts to stand up to Big Poor. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The House Republicans unveiled their new budget today, complete with a spooky video pressing home the point that only the House Republicans and their leader Paul Ryan stand between us and CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE. Yes, the peril of rising debt is that bad. No, it’s not so bad that it’s worth restoring Clinton-era tax rates to prevent. But so bad that it’s worth throwing tens of millions of people off health insurance? Oh, yeah.

The first place to begin with the House budget is taxes. The plan is to slash tax rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent. The budget asserts that it will make up for most of the lost revenue by eliminating tax deductions, but it does not say which ones. This would require them to produce about $6 trillion worth of tax deductions. It would also ensure that, if they succeeded, taxes on the rich would fall, a lot, and taxes on many non-rich people would rise. This probably explains why they are not providing any details, which also explains why this promise would be tricky to fulfill. In any case, the upshot is that they have delineated $6 trillion worth of deficit-expansion, offset by unspecified promises to make it up.

On the spending side, things get somewhat more specific. Medicare would be partially privatized. The basic functions of government, like:

Over the next decade, Ryan would spend 30 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would spend $4.8 trillion over this timeframe; the White House’s would spend $6.8 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 38 percent less on transportation and 24 percent less on veterans. He’d cut “General science, space, and basic technology” by 20 percent. And, compared with the White House, he’d slash “Education, training, employment, and social services” by a full 44 percent.

Do House Republicans really think the federal government is vastly overinvesting in things like roads and scientific research, or is this merely a gimmick to make their tax cuts appear affordable? It is hard to say.

They do genuinely seem to believe that the federal government spends way too much on the poor and sick, and move to correct that. Poor people, or people who have a family member with a serious medical condition, come in for special abuse here. The Republican budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance coverage to 30 million people, and replace it with nothing. On top of that, it would absolutely slash Medicaid and the childrens’ health insurance plan, eliminating coverage from 14-27 million more people (the wide variation reflects the fact that the outcome heavily depends on how states respond to the huge cuts, and the elimination of rules that force states to cover poor people.)

All in all, we have a standard mix of specific benefits for the rich, specific pain for the poor, and a lot of vague promises that would entail pain for the middle class, without committing themselves in a way that could hurt politically.

GOP Releases Plan to Save America From the Poor