Feature

Ryan’s budget: ‘Social Darwinism’?

In the opening salvo of his re-election campaign, Obama called Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

President Obama has finally taken a stand against the GOP’s economic extremism, said Robert Reich in CSMonitor.com. In a fiery opening salvo of his re-election campaign, Obama called the Republican budget proposal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan “thinly veiled social Darwinism” that’s “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.” That regressive plan, hailed as “marvelous” by Mitt Romney, would hand millionaires tax breaks worth at least $150,000 a year, while gutting Medicaid, Medicare, college aid, food stamps, and “almost everything else average and lower-income Americans depend on.” Ryan’s blueprint isn’t just cruel, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times, it’s also a fraud. He’d hand out tax cuts that would cost the federal government $4.6 trillion over a decade—but claims he’d make up for this massive, deficit-expanding loss by closing tax loopholes. “But he has refused to specify a single loophole he would close.” Some “budget.” How can any rational person take this radical flimflam seriously?

Ryan’s proposals are hardly radical, said The Washington Examiner in an editorial. Government spending has risen to 23.4 percent of GDP, far higher than the 19.7 percent it’s averaged since World War II. Ryan’s budget would lower spending to 20 percent of GDP over the next decade. “So that’s what social Darwinism looks like—federal spending higher than Clinton and higher than the historical average.” In contrast, the Obama budget would spend an average of 22.6 percent of GDP over the next decade. “If anybody’s budget is ‘antithetical to our entire history,’ it is Obama’s.” And far from destroying the social safety net, Ryan’s proposals could save it, said Michael Tanner in TheFiscalTimes.com. His idea of replacing guaranteed Medicare with vouchers for private health insurance would cut the program’s unfunded liabilities by trillions of dollars. Obama would leave these ruinous entitlement programs intact, which would put the U.S. on the path to “Greek-style bankruptcy.”

This debate is why I love budget season, said Ezra Klein in WashingtonPost.com. “Budgets are where politicians have to be clear about their visions.” So we now know that Republicans would prioritize tax cuts over deficit reduction and all social programs. Obama, on the other hand, would raise taxes on the wealthy, make big cuts to defense spending, and mostly preserve programs for the poor. Voters now have a clear choice of two very different sets of priorities. That choice is “what the election should be about.”

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