As Republicans and Democrats clash over funding the government through the fiscal year, a new budget battle is looming. Republicans are set to unveil a "controversial" budget proposal for 2012 and beyond, including changes to Medicare and Medicaid that would contribute up to $4 trillion in spending cuts. The plan, to be presented by House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday, would cut $1 trillion from Medicaid's budget alone. House Speaker John Boehner said Congress had avoided tackling entitlement programs for long enough. "We are imprisoning the future for our kids and our grandkids if we do not act," he said. Is Ryan's plan a step in the right direction? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about the budget battle.)
No. The GOP wants to deny health coverage to millions: Ryan's plans for Medicaid are terrifying, says David Dayen at Firedoglake. The federal government would no longer enroll Americans in Medicaid, but give states lump sums, or block grants, to fund their own programs. But "states would unquestionably limit enrollment under a block grant scheme." That would leave millions of impoverished, elderly and disabled people without health care.
"Ryan budget will block grant Medicaid, voucherize Medicare"
The plans for Medicare aren't great, either: Ryan's "huge, controversial" proposal to reform Medicare amounts to "what most people would call a voucher system," says Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic. Seniors would each be given a "sum of money, payable towards the purchase of an insurance policy," on the basis that private insurers are more efficient than the government. But this would certainly deny Americans the "guarantee of comprehensive, affordable coverage" that they get from Medicare.
"Why Ryan's Medicare/Medicaid plans are radical"
But this is the only realistic path to economic recovery: Ryan's plan is the only way to avoid "fiscal calamity," says Grace-Marie Turner at the National Review. Moving to a block grant scheme for Medicaid would give power to states "and ultimately to patients," while a "premium support" system for Medicare would give seniors "more choice of benefits in a competitive private market." This plan would improve efficiency, and dig us out of our fiscal crisis. We can't "stick our heads in the sand" on entitlements any longer.
"The budget's path to prosperity"
Uh, no. This plan amounts to class warfare: So Ryan wants to slash health care programs for the poor, says E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post, while preserving and enacting more tax breaks for the rich. This is even more "radically redistributionist" than the GOP says Obama has been. "Timid Democrats would never dare embark on class warfare on this scale the other way round." The GOP's plans are "extreme and irresponsible." Let's hope Obama can stand firm in the face of them.
"The end of progressive government?"