When Karen Tumulty, the Washington Post reporter who appeared on the Fox News panel last evening, was giddy about the “Gang of Six” bipartisan budget plan offered yesterday-which Tumulty hailed as a sign that government can work-I immediately was skeptical.
I want a budget plan that shows government can go to Jenny Craig. However, the plan, put forward by “Gang of Six” members from both parties, may be more promising than I thought, though less promising than Tumulty thought. I base this tentative optimism on the response of Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and a singularly courageous and smart member on all budget issues:
The proposal put forward by a group of seven senators today is a useful addition to the budget debate. I share the frustration that these senators appear to have with the U.S. Senate’s inability to pass a budget in over 800 days. While the proposal lacks detail in many respects, it includes some reforms that could help put our country on a sounder fiscal footing. Most importantly, it reflects a bipartisan recognition that lower tax rates are essential to help spur economic growth. Unfortunately, it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims. Nevertheless, this effort serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us.
But Ryan points out some serious problems with the plan, including heavy reliance on revenues (it looks like there are tax increases), elusive spending restraints (the cuts seem to come from defense spending), and lack of entitlement reform.
Ryan did, however, note that the gang’s budget plan does include some steps in the right direction on tax reform:
It acknowledges the need for tax reform, proposes a top rate of not more than 29% and as low as 23%. It calls for the reduction of the top corporate tax rate to at least 29% and as low as 23%. It recognizes the current tax code’s complexity and high marginal tax rates hinders economic and job growth. It calls for the tax code to be reformed to move to a territorial system. It calls for any unanticipated additional revenues from economic growth to be used to lower tax rates or deficit reduction, and not used for higher spending. While a laudable proposal, it appears to have no mechanism to ensure this result. To achieve this objective would require, at a minimum, a cap on total spending and ideally a cap on revenues as well.
The Gang’s plan would also repeal the CLASS Act, a long-term entitlement created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-Obamacare-that many actuaries who have analyzed it believe would have a profoundly bad impact on our national finances (here is a Heritage Foundation summary of it).
I guess this plan is like the famous curate’s egg: good in parts, bad in parts. Though not as delighted as Ms. Tumulty, I can see a glimmer of positive news after reading Paul Ryan.
Finder’s Fee: John McCormack of the Weekly Standard