June 17, 2024

Economix: The Problem With Deficit Solutions Like Representative Ryan’s

DESCRIPTIONDarren Hauck for The New York Times Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, introduced a dramatic new budget plan today to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.

Representative Paul D. Ryan,  Republican from Wisconsin, released a dramatic new deficit-reduction proposal Tuesday, one that would slash $5.8 trillion from spending levels over the next decade. Among the more controversial highlights is a cap on Medicare and Medicaid spending, by giving individual Medicare recipients vouchers of a certain amount, and block grants to states for Medicaid. The pundit consensus seems to be that Mr. Ryan’s plan will be the framework for thinking about how to resolve budget issues — in David Brooks’s words, “the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion.”

Here’s the thing.

We already have a number of “serious” long-term fiscal restraint proposals on the table. Last year there was the Simpson-Bowles commission report. There was also a proposal from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, let by Alice Rivlin and Peter Domenici. Then there’s the reports from the Pew-Peterson Commission on Budget Reform, and from U.S. PIRG and the National Taxpayers Union.

Not to mention the similar blue-ribbon fiscal panels assembled by President George W. Bush, by President H.W. Bush, and a slew of other presidents preceding them. By Bruce Bartlett’s count, there have been at least a dozen such commissions over the last few decades, with basically nothing to show for their efforts. And of course the Congressional Budget Office regularly puts together a handy (and comprehensive) guide of spending and taxation options to bring the nation’s fiscal house into order.

None of these myriad proposals have ever gotten any traction, and they have, for the most part, been less drastic than Mr. Ryan’s. They’ve failed not because they were unserious, but because even these less drastic measures were too politically unpopular. For this reason, I’m not betting any money that the Ryan plan, with its even more painful provisions cutting entitlements, will somehow be more politically palatable in the near future.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The country’s budget problems are not a failure of policy ingenuity, but a failure of political willpower.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a6d275ad524fec37bac2d6cf4896856b

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