Spitzer vs. Ryan

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The trouble with Eliot Spitzer’s latest attack on the GOP starts in the first paragraph.

Four critical decision points—two past, two still forthcoming—are leading us down a path to fully embracing the disastrous Republican budget framework. The two past moments: last December’s extension of the Bush tax cuts, which eliminated nearly $4 trillion in revenue over the next decade, and last week’s budget agreement, which cut nearly $40 billion mostly from nondefense discretionary spending.

The extension of the Bush tax cuts is estimated to be likely to reduce revenues by $445 billion, not $4 trillion. I think Spitzer is using an estimate of how much revenue the government would lose over ten years if it made those tax cuts permanent. But it didn’t do that.

Ryan’s plan. . . claims falsely to save $1.4 trillion by eliminating health care reform

No. It claims, correctly, that ending Obamacare’s exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansions will save $1.4 trillion.

And yet with all this and the use of impossible economic forecasts—unemployment will be at 3.5 percent by 2015?—he will not balance the budget until 2040!

Ryan has mistakenly used very optimistic projections of the growth effects of his plan to make the case for it, but the plan does not rely on these forecasts to achieve budget balance.

The deficit must be closed with no less than the 33 percent of the total narrowing generated by revenue. This is the threshold sought by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Plan and already embraced by a significant number of conservative voices. The 33 percent is actually a low number.

Actually, it’s a high number, compared to successful fiscal consolidations in other countries.