It’s a detestable chore to have to read Paul Krugman’s snotty, condescending opeds. I’m sure his attack today on Rep. Paul Ryan will be rebutted by numerous sources and scholars, but I wanted to note a few glaring oversights–though oversights isn’t the right word since they are undoubtedly intention and ideological–from this article.
In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.
Paul Ryan doesn’t have to outline specific programs that would be “slashed” since freezing spending isn’t “slashing” a program or even an agency’s budget. Yes, agencies would have to do more with less accounting for inflation and population growth over time. But let’s also remember that this freeze comes on top of an unprecedented spending spree. It is hardly draconian to insist that bloated federal agencies do without more increases.
And then here is what he writes about Medicare:
After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.
And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.
In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged – and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.
I’ll leave it to those most familiar with Ryan’s plan to explain how his Medicare reforms might help hold down costs. And I’ll grant Krugman that it is certainly possible that what Ryan is proposing won’t be fully sufficient, and the federal government may have to spend more than Ryan proposes.
Yet Krugman might also note that his other references to the Administration’s future deficits are predicated on enormous cuts to Medicare, which honest analysts acknowledge just won’t come to fruition. So Krugman can criticize Ryan’s Medicare proposal, but then he should follow up by offering a proposal of his own. How does he propose getting health care spending on the elderly under control? I presume he supports the Administration’s approach, which is toward fully rationing care for seniors. Or perhaps he wants to fully nationalize the health care system. Does he really think that voting seniors are going to applaud that?
Krugman argues that Ryan’s plan cuts taxes for the wealthy, which would preserve instead of reduce, deficits. I’m sure the analysis Krugman references ignores the possibility that tax cuts tend to led to greater economic growth, which offsets much of the revenue lost from lower tax rates. But that’s a debatable point. What’s not debatable is that Krugman and his allies have absolutely no plan beyond raising taxes until the end of time to address the deficit.
Krugman knocks Ryan for not being specific enough on proposed cuts and not fulling addressing the entitlement crisis. But what do Democrats actually propose to do about programs like Social Security? 50 percent payroll tax increases? Come on guys, let’s get specific!
I’m sure that Paul Ryan’s plan isn’t perfect. But at least he’s offering something. The President’s budget would have us racking up $1 trillion in debt every year for the next decade. Oh, but he’s also supporting a commission to bring recommendations on how to cut the deficit. Now I’m sure that’s the kind of “innovative” thinking that Mr. Krugman can get behind.