Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan is Far from Radical

The Wisconsin congressman’s plan doesn’t balance the budget before 2040.

Since he was announced by Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his running mate on Saturday, Democrats have been quick to attack Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan as “extreme” and “radical.” But it’s far from either.

Ryan struggled in an interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume on Tuesday to describe the details of the fiscal plan he authored but was forced to admit that it wouldn’t balance the budget “until the 2030s.” Indeed, the plan, which was the second Paul wrote as chairman of the House of Representatives’ budget committee, doesn’t foresee a balanced budget before 2040.

The vice presidential candidate added, “if we get the economy growing, if we get people back to work, we balance the budget in ten years.” That may be possible — higher growth will increase tax revenue — but the campaign hasn’t put out specifics to support his statement.

What is clear, as Ryan said, is that President Barack Obama “never once, ever, has offered a plan to ever balance the budget. The United States Senate, they haven’t passed a budget in three years.”

The president’s budget proposals have forecast deficits close a trillion dollars for another decade. His only concrete plan to reduce the shortfall is to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 which, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, would yield $829 billion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that deficits over the same period will add $6.7 trillion to the national debt. A simple tax increase on “the rich” would therefore accomplish relatively little.

Under Ryan’s 2012 plan, deficits for the next ten years would add up to $3 trillion which is less than the current trajectory and less than President Obama has added to the debt in four years. By 2022, total federal spending according to Ryan’s plan would be $4.9 trillion compared to $5.8 trillion under the president’s. Spending this year is $3.6 trillion so both plans call for a considerable increase.

Nevertheless, the president’s campaign has denounced Ryan’s as an “extreme budget plan” that would make “deep spending cuts now to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.” It doesn’t actually cut spending though. Rather it reduces projected increases in government spending which can somehow be passed off as “cuts.”

Moreover, Ryan doesn’t merely cut taxes for the rich. He reduces the number of income tax brackets from six to two: one of 10 percent and one of 25 which is a reduction from the current top rate of 35 percent but would apply for incomes over $100,000 whereas the highest rate now applies to income over $388,350.

By the numbers, Paul Ryan’s plan isn’t radical. He does the bare minimum to restore a modicum of sanity to the budget. If Democrats think that’s extreme, they deserve the moniker of fiscal irresponsibility that Republicans so like to bestow upon their party.