Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, recently released an updated version of his “Roadmap for America’s Future” — a radical budget proposal that eliminates long-term deficits by essentially privatizing Medicare and Social Security and placing arbitrary, non-specific freezes on all non-discretionary spending.
Yesterday, the Republican House leadership refused to endorse the plan (while not coming up with any substantive objections) but that hasn’t stopped other conservative from lending it their full-throated backing:
— Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a co-sponsor of the legislation: We have a plan, [Democrats] have nothing.
— Former Congressional Budget Office Director and McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin: It’s commendable and very true to his conservative beliefs. I think it’s fabulous, it’s a great template for everyone that’s not just relying on smoke and mirrors.
— Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): Halting America’s slide into bankruptcy and economic stagnation will require bold solutions like Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future. The Roadmap uses common sense reforms to improve our health care system and bring Social Security and Medicare into the 21st Century.
While Price is willing to characterize Ryan’s proposal as common sense, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote that it’s “extremely serious — not as a budget proposal, but as a dystopian parable. It’s like reading 1984 for the next century, but with graphs.”
Ryan’s plan accurately reflects the reality that entitlements — and particularly health care spending — are the drivers of long-term budget deficits. But Ryan deals with those problems by simply dumping health care costs back onto the individual, throwing seniors into the wilds of the private insurance market, and subjecting Social Security to the roulette wheel of the stock market.
“This proposal would take Medicare from costing an expected 14.3 percent of GDP in 2080 to less than 4 percent. That’s trillions of dollars that’s not going to health care for seniors. The audacity is breathtaking,” noted the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein. Meanwhile, as I’ve pointed out before, private accounts of the sort Ryan proposes would have cost seniors tens of thousands of dollars in the 2008-2009 market plunge. And while Ryan emphasizes that the account money would only be put into investment funds approved “for soundness and safety,” as the the Cunning Realist has pointed out, failed investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were both “blue chips, the sort of companies that proponents of private accounts insisted any new system would be limited to.”
At the end of the day, everyone approving of this plan is signaling their support for gutting the social safety net as we know it. No wonder the GOP leadership doesn’t want to emphasize that in an election year.