House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a budget today that looks extremely similar to last year's plan with one major difference: it eliminates the budget deficit in 10 years rather than the 25+ years in his past plans.
Democrats predicted that acceleration to balance the budget to lead to an even more divisive budget filled with unpopular cuts to domestic programs that benefit the poor.
Ryan's budget blueprint for fiscal year 2014, titled "The Path to Prosperity," does include the same cuts and reforms to Medicaid, food stamps and education programs that were in his last budget and limits future spending growth to just 3.4 percent down from 4.9 percent.
The plan claims deficit reduction over the next 10 years totaling $4.6 trillion, which is really accomplished by curbing that future spending instead of actual new cuts, is also similar to his last plan that Democrats painted as too severe.
"Our opponents will shout austerity, but let's put this in perspective," Ryan wrote in an op-ed published today in the Wall Street Journal. "On the current path, we'll spend $46 trillion over the next 10 years. Under our proposal, we'll spend $41 trillion. On the current path, spending will increase by 5% each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4%. Because the U.S. economy will grow faster than spending, the budget will balance by 2023, and debt held by the public will drop to just over half the size of the economy."
Ryan admitted in an interview Sunday that the budget will balance faster largely due to the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached earlier this year. That gave Ryan's deficit-cutting efforts a boost by raising over $600 billion in new revenue through higher taxes on families making over $450,000 a year and individuals making $400,000.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has vowed that President Obama will not get any more tax revenue from House Republicans and Ryan's budget sticks to that. His blueprint once again proposes closing tax loopholes and using the savings there to lower rates for all individuals and businesses instead of putting that money towards deficit reduction.
Ryan also included language once again proposing to defund the President's health care law despite the Supreme Court upholding the law. And on Medicare, Ryan stuck to his controversial proposal to overhaul the health program for seniors for everyone now under 55. The budget chairman had toyed with the idea of raising that age level to accomplish more savings, but did not find members willing to break their promise that any Medicare changes would only hit people now under the age of 55.
The budget would also shield the Defense Department from the sequester for the next 10 years.
One thing is clear, this budget is very different from what is expected from Senate Democrats tomorrow or from the president next month. Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., plans to introduce a budget that raises taxes on the wealthy and does not aim to balance the budget deficit.
Below are 10 major elements of Ryan's 2014 budget proposal:
1. Repeal Obamacare
"The Path to Prosperity" explicitly states that the budget "repeals the President's onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers." Ryan specifically laments both the massive Medicaid expansion in the health care law and the subsidies provided by government to help individuals purchase health insurance. He calls the subsidies an "enormous market distortion."
Repealing the health care bill would account for $1.8 trillion in Ryan's deficit reduction. Ryan defends including health care repeal in the budget despite the Supreme Court upholding the law and the fact that President Obama would veto any repeal bill. Ryan told "Fox News Sunday" that it was included because Republicans "believe that Obamacare is a program that will not work. We believe Obamacare will actually lead to hospitals and doctors and health care providers turning people away."
Ryan proposes repealing "Obamacare and "enacting medical-liability reform, ensuring Americans can purchase quality coverage across state lines, and expanding access to consumer-directed healthcare options."