Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been getting a lot of press in recent months, after developing specific recommendations for addressing the federal budget deficit. (See, for example, the major article in the Aug. 2 New York Times). He calls his plan the Roadmap for America’s Future (version 2.0). A recent CBPP blog post critiques the Ryan Roadmap.
Much of the media attention has, at a minimum, applauded Rep. Ryan for being one of the few conservative lawmakers to go beyond the usual platitudes about cutting taxes and somehow simultaneously reducing the deficit, by making more specific proposals about what would have to be cut. I agree that he should be applauded for not shying away from controversy and for generating some serious discussion of important fiscal policy issues.
Of course, the downside of unveiling specific elements of a plan that would slash taxes for the rich, while attempting to cut the deficit, is that there are a whole lot of people who would come out on the short end of the budget tradeoffs, and who are likely to oppose the plan if they understand the particulars. And a specific plan can also be critiqued if it doesn’t add up.
The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has issued a number of critiques of Rep. Ryan’s blueprint, including a recent blog post by Paul N. Van de Water. He calls the plan “a radical blueprint to shift massive resources from the broad majority of Americans to the very wealthy, while leaving the budget on an unsustainable course for decades.”
The two main arguments made by CBPP are: 1) the Ryan plan would cut taxes in half for the richest 1 percent of Americans while increasing taxes for about three-quarters of Americans — those with incomes between $20,000 and $200,000; and 2) debt would grow for decades, despite massive program cuts. The blog post links to a CBPP analysis that elaborates on those themes.
An Aug. 2 Washington Post column by Perry Bacon Jr. offers an interesting commentary on the divide between Ryan and other Republicans in Congress, who are uncomfortable with offering such specific proposals during campaign season.
In a future post, we’ll take a look at an interesting and somewhat related question that the next federal budget or tax legislation may answer: Are the deficit hawks – who have been steadfastly opposed to additional stimulus spending, including state fiscal relief – more committed to deficit reduction or to tax cuts for the very wealthy?
Jon Peacock, project director
Wisconsin Budget Project