House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a 2012 budget proposal promising $6.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, through spending cuts and savings on government health plans for the elderly and the poor. Liberals are enraged over the plan — crafted by GOP budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — because they say it won't merely trim Medicare and Medicaid, but effectively destroy them. Is Ryan trying to save Medicare, or kill it?

The GOP wants to dismantle Medicare entirely: Ryan would essentially eliminate Medicare by "privatizing and voucherizing" it, says Paul Krugman at The New York Times. But that "does nothing whatsoever to control costs." It just saves money by "limiting the vouchers" so they won't keep up with rising health care costs — in other words, by "denying medical care to those who can't afford to top up their premiums."
"Privatizing Medicare"

No, the way to kill Medicare is leaving it alone: Medicare and Medicaid "are unsustainable" in their current form, says Douglas Holtz-Eakin at National Review. So "the cruelest of options" is to leave them alone and consign them to certain death. Ryan is proposing that we address the "real problem," which is that Medicare is set up as an unaffordable entitlement program. By giving the elderly "premium support" instead, they'll be able to pay for, and choose, the level of coverage they need.
"A commendable budget proposal"

Stopping this is Obama's big test: Now Americans know how high the stakes are in this budget fight, says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. This is "class warfare." The Republicans are determined to slash taxes for the rich and end programs for the poor, which would turn back the clock to before the New Deal. The question is, will President Obama rise to the occasion and "stand up for the vision of a practical, progressive government that he once advanced so eloquently"?
"The end of progressive government?"