Over the coming days we’re going to do a lot of unpacking of Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
Grace Wyler has a concise overview of his Medicare proposal (which is essentially to turn it into a voucher program).
But there’s more to his “Roadmap to a balanced budget.
In April of last year, the Congressional Budget Office gave an assessment of his budget proposal, as represented to them by Ryan and his staff.
Probably the most eye-popping part isn’t about Medicare, but about what would happen to non-entitlement spending under his plan:
Furthermore, the proposal specifies a path for all other spending (excluding interest and Social Security) that would cause such spending to decline sharply as a share of GDP—from 12 per cent in 2010 to 6 per cent in 2022 and 3.5 per cent by 2050. For comparison, spending in this category has exceeded 8 per cent of GDP in every year since World War II. The proposal does not specify the changes to government pro- grams that might be made in order to produce that path. Because the proposal speci- fies that such spending would grow only at the rate of prices in the overall economy, the quantity of real government services (that is, spending adjusted for inflation) per person would decline as population increases. Moreover, that spending would not grow with real income per capita, as it has tended to over long historical periods.
In a post from this March, Ezra Klein spells out how absurd this is:
It’s that last assumption, perhaps, that shows most clearly how unlikely Ryan’s specified budget path is. He’s saying that in 2050, spending on defence, on food stamps, on infrastructure, on education, on research and development, on the federal workforce, and everything other non-entitlement program combined will be less than four percentage points of GDP.
Consider that defence spending has never fallen below three percentage points of GDP, and Mitt Romney has promised to keep it above four percentage points of GDP. Ryan has not outlined a realistic goal.
Folks who talk about Paul Ryan’s libertarianism needn’t focus on his Medicare plan. After all, it assumes that all seniors have some level of coverage somehow. The more interesting story is that the rest of the government’s spending is assumed to almost zero out.
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