House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) previewed his much-anticipated 2012 budget proposal on Fox New Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace that his plan will “[exceed] the goals that were put out in the president’s deficit commission.” That commission, led by former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson (R., Wyo.) put forward recommendations — in the form of spending cuts, entitlement and tax reforms — to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.
“We’re going to put out a budget that gets us on a path to not only balancing the budget, but gets us on a path of paying off the debt,” Ryan said, without going into too much detail. He said his plan will achieve these goals by “cutting spending, reforming entitlements and growing our economy.”
In addition to spending cuts, Ryan said he plans to offer spending caps (as a percentage of GDP) in order to return federal spending to historic (pre-Obama, pre-stimulus) levels.
On taxes, Ryan said he will call for “fundamental tax reform” that lowers rates and broadens the base. “We don’t have a tax problem,” he said. “The problem with our deficit is not because Americans are taxed too little. So we’re not going to go down the path of raising taxes on people and raising taxes on the economy.”
The budget chairman did offer a few specifics about how he intends to deal with entitlement programs: For Medicare, premium support that would allow seniors to choose from a list of private plans that would then be subsidized ; for Medicaid, Ryan will propose a system of block grants to states to allow governors greater flexibility in managing costs.
Wallace asked if such a bold and presumably controversial proposal would be “dead on arrival.” Ryan said he didn’t know, but that Republicans were doing the responsible thing by at least trying to address the country’s fiscal problems. “The president has failed to lead,” he said. “We are going to lead, and we’re going to put out ideas to fix this problem.”
“I find it kind of ironic that the week we’re trying to engage the president, the Democrats and the country with an honest debate about our budget, with real solutions to fix this country’s problems and prevent a debt crisis the president’s launching his reelection campaign,” he added.
Ryan said he fully expects Democrats to throw a political tantrum over his plan. “We are giving them a political weapon to go against us,” he said. “But they will have to lie and demagogue to make it a weapon…Shame on them if they do that.”
On that note, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in response to Ryan’s comments:
We are all committed to deficit reduction, but the issue is how we do it without jeopardizing our economic recovery, losing American jobs, and violating our commitments to seniors. To govern is to choose, and it is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and other big money special interests while slashing our investment in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. That’s not courageous, it’s wrong.
Ryan is expected to release his budget on Tuesday. Meanwhile, there is still no deal on on how to fund the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Lawmakers have until April 8 to reach a compromise or the government will shut down.