Let's turn to the Republican budget from Congressman Ryan and the House Budget Committee. At one level, based on my prior posts, one could think I'd be supportive of the Republican budget. But, I'm not, at least not at any level beyond principle. At the level of principles, tax reform is a good idea and the budget should be balanced by cutting spending, I find myself in line with the budget. But beyond that level, I'm almost entirely misaligned.
In particular, there are four problems I see with the Ryan budget.
1. Obfuscation - nowhere in the Ryan budget are there numbers comparable to the CBO numbers to allow for easy comparison between the Ryan budget and the CBO baseline. This is a substantial issue for those who would like to have comparability between numbers.
2. Military spending - the Ryan budget clearly increases "base" military spending, that is military spending less OCO spending. In the Ryan budget, total defense spending looks to be roughly in line with the CBO baseline but this conceals a switch between "base" spending and OCO spending. In other words, looking at only base spending, the Ryan budget proposes spending more than the CBO on defense.
3. Entitlements - within the budget window, the Ryan budget does relatively little to address entitlements other than ending the spending associated with the ACA. Medicare spending (net) is about $100 billion less over the 10 year period and social security spending is exactly the same as in the CBO baseline. Thus, more than half of manageable (ex-interest) government spending is spared from any spending restraint. As a consequence of this, Ryan is forced to make very difficult reductions in spending on the poor, a very bad tradeoff in my view.
4. Taxes - Ryan continues to advance ill thought out and ill defined tax plans in his budgets. The 10/25% rate and I'll figure out the $5 trillion plus of tax increases later argument is old, tired, and unnecessary. Ryan could simply content himself with the notion of revenue neutral tax reform and leave it at that. The tax plans have no impact on the budget whatsoever and thus are nothing more than wasted time in the discussion. Tax reform will or will not happen in the future. Offering some specifics without all of them causes much more trouble than it is worth.
So all and all, the Ryan budget is deeply disappointing, particularly since a budget that asked a little more of defense and spending on the elderly and ignored the tax discussion would have been a better answer and might have been more defensible, at least for those willing to engage in the debate.