Whether it's a blueprint for continued Republican electoral success or an albatross around the GOP's neck remains to be seen, but the proposed budget unleashed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and House Republicans this past week has quickly become a hot topic in election campaigns stretching from the presidential race to local Assembly and state Senate races.
The document, labeled "Pathway to Prosperity," is not a shy proposal. It would slash spending over the next decade by $5.3 trillion, reduce the deficit by $3.3 trillion, and lower taxes by $2 trillion, compared to the budget of President Barack Obama. The Republican budget would cap discretionary spending in 2013 at $1.028 trillion.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan said the nation stood at a crucial juncture, and the two budget documents embraced radically different visions of America.
"It is rare in American politics to arrive at a moment in which the debate revolves around the fundamental nature of American democracy and the social contract," Ryan wrote. "But that is where we are. And no two documents illustrate this choice of two futures better than the president's budget and the one put forward by House Republicans."
Ryan said the president's budget would give more power to unelected bureaucrats, take more money from taxpayers to fuel an ever bigger government, and commit the nation to "a future of debt and decline."
Among other things, the proposed Republican budget would cut the nation's debt as a share of the economy by approximately 15 percent over the next decade.
Medicare would be in for a major overhaul, but there would be no changes for those now retired or nearing retirement. For those who retire starting in 2023, the plan would guarantee coverage in which seniors would use an exchange to buy policies financed by a premium-support payment, including a traditional fee-for-service Medicare option.
The budget would add a competitive-bidding process to determine the growth of government's financial contribution to Medicare, Ryan said.
Taxes are also are a focus in the proposal. The plan would lump today's six individual income tax brackets into two brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent and chop the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. In addition, Ryan said, the budget would move to a "territorial" tax system to prevent companies from being taxed excessively when they invest profits made overseas in the United States.
While there would be no tax increases, Ryan said the budget would target tax loopholes, keeping revenues healthy.
Obama doesn't like it
The budget debate is already reverberating across the electoral landscape. Democrats are honing their argument that the GOP budget is unfair, tilted to the wealthy and will threaten the health security of older Americans. Republicans counter that the president's mounting budget debt is simply unsustainable, will provoke a Greece-like financial meltdown and bankrupt Social Security and Medicare.
It didn't take the White House long to respond. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer called the GOP budget "wrong-headed."
"The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility," Pfeiffer said. "It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers. What's worse is that all of these tax breaks would be paid for by undermining Medicare and the very things we need to grow our economy and the middle class - things like education, basic research, and new sources of energy."
Pfeiffer said Ryan's plan would end Medicare "as we know it," a refrain the administration also used last year when Ryan unveiled his budget plan.
"The House economic plan draws on the same wrong-headed theory that led to the worst recession of our lifetimes and contributed to the erosion of middle-class security over the last decade," Pfeiffer said. "And the President believes we cannot return to a failed theory that didn't lead to the growth of jobs, incomes, or the economy. That's why he put forward a balanced approach that reduces the deficit by over $4 trillion. It's an approach that asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, makes tough cuts to programs we can't afford, and strengthens Medicare with reforms that would reduce overpayments to drug companies, improve the quality of care, and protect Medicare's commitment to America's seniors."
Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said the Ryan budget was all about pandering.
"This budget is more of the same from Paul Ryan, Sean Duffy, Reid Ribble and the Congressional Republicans," Tate said. "In their haste to pander to the far right wing and moneyed special interests, they have put forward a budget that contains an average $150,000 tax cut for millionaires and billionaires that is paid for by deep budget cuts that cost jobs and hurt average Americans, especially seniors, veterans and children."
The former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, now Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, said the president was spending money faster than any president in history.
"President Obama's failed policies have put America on an unsustainable trajectory," Priebus said. "The president broke his promise to cut the deficit in half during his first term, and, as of yesterday, he has created more new debt than any president in history. Senate Democrats, accomplices in Obama's fiscal irresponsibility, have failed to pass a budget for 1,056 days."
Richard Moore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.