President Obama made it clear yesterday that he is not at all enamoured with Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan:
“It is a Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans. It is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who is willing to work for it. A place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top but grows outward from the heart of middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last–education and training, research and development, our infrastructure–it is a prescription for decline. And everybody here should understand that because there’s very few people here who haven’t benefited at some point from those investments that were made in the ‘50s, and the ‘60s, and the ‘70s, and the ‘80s. That’s part of how we got ahead.”
In his daily “Wonkbook” email this morning, Ezra Klein points out that there are actually several areas in which both the President’s budget and Ryan’s budget are in general agreement: the two major similarities being that both leave Social Security untouched and both cap Medicare spending at half a percentage point over GDP. I would suggest that, in both areas, it is a case of Ryan backing down from his original positions, which suggests that the President is winning the argument already.
Where the two budgets differ is how they allocate revenues and the nature of the spending cuts they want to make; this is the heart of matter in terms of where this country will be heading for the rest of the decade:
Ryan’s budget increases defense spending, cuts taxes on the rich, and pays for all that — and for his deficit reduction — with deep cuts to programs for the poor and to the basic services the federal government carries out. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts are to programs for the poor.
Obama’s budget, meanwhile, features large tax increases on the rich, some cuts to the defense budget, some cuts to government services, and relatively few cuts to programs for the poor. Consequently, his budget has somewhat less deficit reduction than Ryan does over the next 10 years.
The arguments we are going to hear from both sides going forward will, one hopes, get the public’s attention to the degree necessary for them to make an informed judgement on which approach would be better for the county. One probably hopes in vain, of course, because a meek and equivalency-focused mainstream press will not dare provide anything more than “he said and then he said” stenography and the often fact-free rhetoric from all too many blowhards and special interest puppets, mostly on the right, will obscure or distort everything in order to confuse, frighten or, in some cases, inflame those who have come to accept them as the only voices they trust.