Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Paul Ryan's Buget Appeal to the April Fools

I see Paul Ryan picked an approropriate day to release his (and by "his" I mean something created by others then handed to him as the pitchman) plan to balance the budget in ten years.
Ryan's budget, called the "Path to Prosperity," has almost no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but is expected to serve as a campaign manifesto for Republicans in November's congressional elections.
It's a predictably Republican plan. The rich get their path to greater riches, and guess who picks up the tab? April fools!
It proposes to kill President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare reforms and revives cuts in social programs such as the popular Medicare entitlement for the elderly that Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has proposed in other recent budgets.
Let me think for a moment... didn't we have a Republican claim that he was going to balance the budget in ten years, roughly fourteen or so years ago? How did that work out for us, again?

Let me remind you why ten year plans to balance the budgets are the refuge of liars and cowards:
  1. Congress cannot bind future sessions of Congress. The only budget that matters is the one they pass this year.

    If you believe that the Republicans, given the opportunity, won't embrace deficit spending like kids in a candy store, you've missed the entire modern history of the party.

  2. Unexpected events happen.

    If you have been asleep for the past decade or two, you may have missed a couple of wars, a global economic meltdown, and the like, but believe it or not they affect the budget.

  3. Budget projections rely upon assumptions that may be reasonable in the short-term, but are unreliable in the longer term.

    A few years ago, for example, healthcare inflation was assumed to remain out-of-control for decades to come, yet suddenly it appears to be in check. (Ryan's response, of course, is to propose eliminating the Obama-era legislation that has played a role in that change).

  4. Budget deficits aren't the real issue. The issue is whether government spending is responsible, not whether the budget is balanced every year.

    When the economy is in a downward spiral, it makes sense to try to stimulate growth. When the economy is booming, it makes sense not just to balance the budget but to pay down the national debt. The Republican Party takes the opposite approach, with irresponsible tax cuts and over-the-top spending during boom times, then embracing austerity during recessionary periods... if a Democrat is in the White House. The responsible approach is to keep the growth of the nation's debt under control over the long-term while maintaining flexibility for times of recession and crisis.

  5. "Ten years" means no one has to be responsible.

    This is a typical coward's refuge. Promise to deliver something over such a long time frame that nobody has to take responsibility. If a "ten year plan" were to pass for the coming fiscal year, not only will President Obama be out of office when it comes time to deliver, but his successor will be out of office (or at the very tail end of his term). And I guarantee that his successor would have many excuses for why the plan failed, and how it's somebody else's fault, assuming anybody even remembers it.

And all of that assumes that the budget is put together with honest numbers. When dishonest politicians use distorted figures, the projection is worthless from day one.

If this weren't another childish stunt for the April fools, Ryan would offer a meaningful budget for the coming fiscal year, no hocus pocus, wishful thinking, or outright mendacity about "ten years from now". And he would be honest, "I want to cut social benefits for ordinary, working people right now, so that I can afford to continue the tax levels and spending programs that best serve the special interests that favor my political party. If my budget plan fails, the result will be that ordinary people pay a significant price, but those special interests remain on the Path to Prosperity. I will never vote to restore a penny of social spending cut in the name of this program, even if not one of the projections I'm making prove true, because the entire point of this exercise is to cut those programs."

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