The budget itself is being hailed as a transformative document. It cuts $6 trillion (or at least $4.4 trillion) in federal spending over the next 10 years, although even that won’t translate into an actual balanced budget for 26 years. Which means when there are enough Republicans in the Senate and in the White House to revisit the plan (we’re speaking hypothetically here, because as far-reaching and serious as a proposal as this is, the Democrats have proven that they’ll fight to the death to preserve just about every dime of federal largesse in the budget and then attempt to balance the budget by soaking the rich some more), something else – like Social Security – will need to get a haircut.
Cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent back to 25 percent is a smart – if fairly obvious – move, and it will increase the revenue to the federal government in relatively short order because the multinational corporations the Democrats love to beat on will repatriate a lot of money and jobs they’ve taken overseas for years. But that, obviously, is going to be a nightmarishly difficult sell to the Left.
You’re going to hear “tax breaks for millionaires” and “hurting kids and seniors” out of this thing. Ryan’s plan to block-grant Medicaid to the states and let them experiment with ways to deliver health care to the poor on their own is going to be demagogued like nothing you’ve ever seen. And his idea to transform Medicare from a government-pays-all plan to a premium-support program in which Medicare recipients will buy a private health plan with a federal subsidy and then take control of cost control through individual economic decisions in the market is going to be demagogued even worse. The plan doesn’t kick in for 10 years and it won’t affect anybody older than 55. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the Democrats will do everything they can to convince old people that Paul Ryan is coming after their Medicare.
All that said, a preliminary look at this thing says Ryan is the most serious, visionary and intelligent practioner of the budgetary arts in DC right now, and this is a really, really big deal which represents the first attempt at actual long-term leadership in Washington in years. Nobody on the Democrat side is putting forth a serious program to bring down the federal deficit; they’re laughably thin on solutions and scandalously so, given they still control the Senate and the White House.
Maybe the real question, and it’s one our readers might want to mull over and perhaps hold forth on in the comments, might be what the political implications of all this for 2012 will be. If the Democrats become the Party Of No on the budget and reducing spending, and don’t come to the table with anything beyond President Obama’s comical proposal to freeze federal spending at the highest levels in human history, will Ryan’s budget be too scary for the American people to handle – meaning Obama gets re-elected while Republicans grab a narrow majority (4-6 seat gain) in the Senate? Or will the voters embrace the Ryan plan in the absence of anything the Democrats might bring to the table other than a tired old “soak the rich” program, meaning a big (10-13 seats and a 57-60 vote majority) Senate swing to the Republicans and a GOP takeover of the White House?
And that would bring up something else to think about; if the above question is answered with a big GOP year but the party can’t find a strong nominee in the current field, is it unthinkable that Ryan might end up a viable candidate?