As the robins begin to sing, the tulips bloom and the dreadful winter recedes from memory, the surest sign of spring pops into the headlines: Paul Ryan’s draconian budget bill. It’s almost like reading an Onion parody of heartless Republican priorities. Here is a summary from Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times:
In his plan, military spending through 2024 would actually rise by $483 billion over the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act “consistent with America’s military goals and strategies,” while nondefense spending at Congress’s annual discretion would be cut by $791 billion below those strict limits.
In all, Mr. Ryan says, spending would be cut by $5.1 trillion over the next decade. More than $2 trillion of that would come from repealing Mr. Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, a political move that has become much more difficult with the closing of the first enrollment period. As many as 10 million Americans have gotten health insurance through the law, either through private policies purchased on insurance exchanges, through expanded Medicaid or private policies purchased through brokers but subsidized by the law.
As with past budget proposals, Mr. Ryan seeks to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, then turn the health care program for the poor into block grants to the states — saving $732 billion over the decade. He would also cap and block-grant food stamps, starting in 2020, cutting that program by $125 billion in five years. The budget relies on imposing new work requirements on food stamp and welfare recipients.
You have to wonder what, exactly, Mr. Ryan is thinking. He has put forward similar bills the past few years, with no payoff. Even if the proposal, again called the “Path to Prosperity,” could muster a majority in the House (a most unlikely scenario), it would be dead on arrival in the Senate. So why stake the national budget on a series of implausible-to-impossible proposals, including one to repeal the very health care law that is now providing millions of Americans with access to health insurance?
It’s one thing to propose a budget as a first step in a negotiation with Democrats. This is not such a proposal. It is like offering to buy somebody’s house for a nickel and a snarl. This bill will go nowhere, and it will not stand Mr. Ryan or any Republican very well in the 2014 or 2016 elections. Only one thing is clear: wasting that much ink and paper is not consistent with Mr. Ryan’s self-professed obsession with saving federal dollars.
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