The budget wars are on again in Washington, with Democrats and Republicans clashing over House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's latest "austerity" budget. Ryan (R-Wis.) is proposing spending $5.3 trillion less over the coming decade than President Obama has suggested in his budget. The White House says Ryan is trying to give the rich a big tax cut, and paying for it by slashing spending on programs that benefit the poor. Fiscal conservatives are attacking Ryan from the right, saying deeper cuts are needed to balance the budget quicker. What exactly does Ryan want to cut? Here, a brief guide:
Where is Ryan focusing his cuts?
As it was the last time around, the centerpiece of Ryan's plan is his proposal to transform Medicare into a system of subsidized private insurance plans — only this time he's suggesting offering seniors the option of buying into the traditional "fee-for-service" program. Over the next 10 years, Ryan's plan would shave $205 billion in Medicare spending. Then more savings would roll in as the Medicare eligibility age gradually climbed from 65 to 67. Ryan hopes to save another $810 billion in federal spending on Medicaid over the next decade. But he's proposing even bigger cuts elsewhere.
What programs would face the biggest reductions?
All of the government's entitlement programs, including welfare, food stamps, agricultural subsidies ($30 billion), and transportation, would come under the chopping block. Together, they'd account for $2 trillion in spending cuts. Ryan's plan — which, by the way, has essentially zero chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate — calls for spending 13 percent less on veterans, 6 percent less on science, space, and technology, and 25 percent less on transportation projects, such as upgrading roads and bridges.
Where does Ryan want to spend more?
Ryan's budget would increase defense spending over what Obama has proposed, pushing spending in 2013 from $546 billion to $554 billion, and shield the Pentagon from $500 billion in cuts triggered when the congressional super committee failed to reach a deficit reduction deal last year.
What about taxes?
The biggest example of Ryan's budgetary largesse comes from his simplification of the tax code, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, and collapsing the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent. Ryan says the moves would fuel economic growth while reducing deficit spending. The White House says Ryan wants to "shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000," and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says he's shifting a greater share of health-care costs to seniors and letting "Medicare wither on the vine."
Sources: The Hill, The Nation, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post
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