In a risky election-year move, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has unveiled a sure-to-be-controversial spending plan that calls for a drastic reshaping of the nation's largest entitlement programs. Ryan says his package of spending cuts and tax changes would eliminate deficits by 2040. But Democrats are ridiculing the plan as an attempt to lavish tax breaks on the rich, and make the poor pay for them through reductions in spending on Medicare and other social programs. Indeed, says David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo, the GOP is now "firmly and irrevocably on record as planning to dismantle Medicare." Of course, Ryan's plan is sure to put the budget front and center as the 2012 election season heats up. Which side stands to be the big winner?
Ryan just did Democrats a huge favor: Last year, Ryan and other GOP leaders got their colleagues to "hold hands and jump off the cliff together," says Steve Benen at MSNBC, by voting for "the party's right-wing, Medicare-killing plan." It was a near suicidal act — "the attack ads wrote themselves." Now the incredibly unpopular proposals are back, and Ryan is asking Republicans to vote once again for a plan that guts Medicare to give "a big tax cut to the wealthy." Vulnerable GOP incumbents might as well start packing their bags now.
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Actually, this shows voters Republicans are the grown-ups: Ryan's budget is "coherent, responsible, and serious," says Yuval Levin at National Review. His attempt to enact long-overdue Medicare reform is "the most needful and essential of his prescriptions," and it shows "why the coming election matters." Either we can return Democrats to power and continue "the same blind march" toward fiscal catastrophe, or we can go with the GOP, and have "a genuine cause for hope."
"The new Ryan budget"
At least this budget makes the choices clear: Ryan's budget is a laundry list of things Republicans love and Democrats hate, says Rick Newman at U.S. News. In addition to the Medicare overhaul, Ryan calls for repealing Obama's health-care reform law, and reversing planned defense spending cuts called for in last year's debt-ceiling agreement. "It's not clear if voters would ever tolerate the magnitude of change Ryan is proposing. But he has framed the issues accurately."
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