While some may find the latest House Republican budget to be a noble attempt by a governing minority to push back against the galling and immoral fiscal irresponsibility of the governing majority, we are instead treated to the usual narrative that Republicans are generating extremist conservative manifestos in order to score partisan political points; and they do so on the backs of the sick, poor, and elderly. Americans love underdog stories. But not the NYTimes.
The NY Times leads with an interesting perspective on the House Republicans’ decision to responsibly adhere to their oaths of office. Carrying out the basic moral responsibility to keep the nation solvent and carrying out basic constitutional duties such as passing a budget are now classified as nothing but a political power move by the GOP:
House Republicans thrust their vision of a smaller government, a flatter tax code and a free-market Medicare system into the 2012 election season on Tuesday, banking that fears over surging federal deficits will trump longstanding voter allegiances to popular government programs.
As it is always election season under the Obama administration, perhaps this is the reason that Senate Democrats have failed to ‘thrust’ a budget in over 1,066 days.
How else might one have begun this article? Perhaps with a more objective and less defensive take on the matter:
“House Republicans today proposed a long term budget plan that alters the existing taxation and entitlement structures in an attempt to eliminate the deficit by 2040.”
But the NY Times knows its constituency, and seeks to frighten its readers into finding out just how the authoritarian Republicans will dictate and legislate a conservative utopia into existence. And what is a conservative utopia unless it crushes the backs of the poor:
The House Budget Committee blueprint for spending and taxation over the next decade would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, shrink programs for the poor and turn them over to state governments, and try to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses.
The statement that the budget would ‘reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans’ is overstated, as this is only part of the Medicare reform proposal, but this isn’t admitted until the final sentence of the article:
Medicare would be turned into a subsidized set of private insurance plans, but with the option of buying into the existing fee-for-service program.
When asserting that the budget shrinks programs for the poor, one would expect clarification on whether this is a functional shrinking or a reduction in federal expenditures for the programs. If these programs are being turned over to the states, why must they shrink? If the answer is affordability, then this is an acknowledgment that the programs are unsustainable. Another important distinction is how many of these programs are for the poor, as opposed to meant for the poor. Many entitlements have seen mission creep into the middle class, contributing to potential fiscal collapse.
As you may recall from the opening sentence of the article, the GOP has decided to ‘thrust’ upon this election season the conservative trifecta of smaller, flatter, and freer. Not to be outdone, the White House responded with a trifecta of its own:
The White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, countered that the budget plan “fails the test of balance, fairness and shared responsibility” and would “end Medicare as we know it.”
“End Medicare as we know it.” It’s striking that the administration that set out to ‘fundamentally transform America’ and signed into existence a law that slashed a $500 billion dollar wound into the Medicare program would suddenly balk at this prospect and instead let this ‘popular government program’ bleed to death.
To remind the reader again of the political motivation of the budget, the reporter provides this quote, void of context, from one Republican Congressman:
“It’s going to be a big deal,” said Mr. Cole, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees. “This budget was rolled out in the context of a presidential election. The House is shaping the national debate.”
Whether this was merely an observation or a statement of intent is lost, as in the context and narrative of the article, it takes on the latter. (Though as a general rule, the Republicans would be better served to be devoid of such fatuous braggadocio.)
Finally, we’re provided a series of numbers similarly lacking in context:
Under the Ryan plan, spending would be cut $5.3 trillion below President Obama’s budget through 2022. Medicare would be shaved by $205 billion. Medicaid and other health programs would be cut $770 billion. Other entitlement programs, including welfare, food stamps, agriculture subsidies and transportation, would be cut by nearly $2 trillion. Budget experts said that last figure was so high it could only be reached by scaling back or eliminating payments to the working poor through the earned income credit.
This information raises more questions than it answers. When it states ‘Medicare would be shaved by $205 billion’, does that mean in addition to the $500 billion cut by the PPACA, a law already enacted and on the books, or does that mean in lieu of the PPACA cuts, as part of this budget proposal is to repeal the Obamacare law? In the accounting language of DC politicians, a world where a reduction in the rate of spending increase is called a cut, one wonders why this wouldn’t be considered a $295 billion increase in Medicare spending.
And finally we are treated to projections from anonymous ‘budget experts’. Are these the same experts who, in 2008, predicted a balanced budget by 2012? A more interesting projection is that of the reporter, who assumes that the only reason Republicans could possibly want to save the country is so that they can rule it.