Bruce Bartlett on Ryan Budget

Bruce Bartlett says that the Ryan Budget is not serious, both in subjective and objective terms. Bartlett thinks the tax side of the balanced budget equation must rise higher than 19% of GDP collected in taxes:

One would think that a comprehensive budget proposal designed primarily for the purpose of reducing budget deficits and the national debt would put at least some of the burden on the revenue side of the equation. First, it would reduce the need to cut spending so heavily and improve the chances of passage; unless Ryan is only interested in scoring points with the Tea Party crowd, he will need the support of at least some Senate Democrats and President Obama if he wants any aspects of his plan enacted.

It is not that the budget cannot be balanced mathematically at 19% of GDP, it is simply that the spending cuts that would be inevitable do not have enough political support, because the nature of what such cuts would mean.

In objective terms, Bartlett does not believe the tax policy outlined by Ryan has any hope of raising 19% of GDP in taxes received, which is what the deficit reduction numbers asserted by Ryan are based upon:

When the CBO analyzed Ryan’s plan, it could not confirm that his tax proposal would in fact raise the 19 percent of GDP he claims it would. That figure was simply asserted by Ryan’s staff. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center of an earlier Ryan proposal similar to this one, which Ryan also asserted would raise 19 percent of GDP in revenues, found that it would raise just 16.8 percent of GDP in revenues.

I think the Ryan budget has at least served to increase the discussion of broad-based deficit reduction, including a new proposal that is apparently forthcoming from the President, which will help continue the debate. And the lack of a replacement vision in the Ryan budget for the insurance expansions contained in the ACA is clarifying in terms of policy choice (address costs while expanding coverage which is now law as Aaron notes, v. not expanding coverage and simply shifting costs away from the federal government). And as I said last week, until the CBO/Joint Committee on taxation and other independent sources confirm the details of Ryan’s plan (or anyone else’s), they are really just stylized ideas. Bartlett says this set are particularly bad when assessed on a variety of criteria.

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