On Tuesday morning [April 5], Republican Representative Paul Ryan released a budget plan that would slash spending over the next few decades with no increase in taxes and very limited cuts to defense programs. It’s like a stool with only one leg. It will not stand.
Although it’s a wobbly stool—in both political and in policy terms—it will have a big impact on the debate. David Brooks calls it “a moment of truth,” noting that despite a presidential commission that has issued a bold plan for getting our fiscal house in order, the President failed to endorse its work.
How should the President and other progressives respond? For starters, progressives should be unabashed in labeling the Ryan plan for what it is: an ideological manifesto for a Tea-Party-dominated Republican Party.
Here’s what the progressive rebuttal should be in a nutshell: 1) point out that voodoo economics is back in full gear; 2) start talking about tax reform and its potential to produce a fairer, simpler, and more pro-growth system that has the added advantage of plugging a big hole in the budget; 3) instead of worrying about protections for the elderly, many of whom are quite affluent, remind people that, whether young or old, wealthy Americans have made out like bandits in recent decades and that it’s time to do something for working families of modest means; 4) rethink America’s defense posture and whether we can continue to be the world’s policeman, and 5) be open to some reforms to Medicare and Medicaid but only if they’re combined with additional revenues and a more streamlined military.
Voodoo Economics. The economic projections in the plan are straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Big cuts in spending produce an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent. Wow. The Mad Hatter has joined the Tea Party. No mainstream economist can do anything other than laugh at the audacity of the claims.
My biggest concern is that Washington is signaling to Russia that it’s OK to meddle in the politics of sovereign nations which are your neighbors. Meddling is going on from Paris to Ukraine, from east to west and north to south, within Europe and at its borders, and always with the intent of undermining the credibility and effectiveness of democratic institutions. And it is being either denied or downplayed.