It’s Groundhog Day for Paul Ryan, As He Unveils Yet Another Plan to Slash Spending on the Poor


Another year, another Paul Ryan budget. I’ll be honest: I didn’t have the energy to do more than flip through the FY2015 version. It’s not as if anything changes much from year to year, and even Ryan seemed a little tired of the kabuki show this time around. Apparently this year’s big innovation is to finally embrace dynamic scoring, aka magical thinking. You see, last year the CBO reduced its forecast of economic growth, which means that Ryan’s budget would no longer be balanced unless he did something different. Raising taxes was obviously out of the question, and since Ryan has been trying to position himself as a compassionate defender of the poor lately, it would hardly do to slash safety net programs even further than he usually does. So he simply assumed that all his budget cutting would supercharge the economy and thus bring in more tax revenue and rebalance the budget. Mission accomplished!

Anyway, here’s the bottom line from the Ryan blueprint:

Let’s analyze this. Changes to Social Security and Medicare are minuscule. (Until after 2024, when Ryan eliminates traditional Medicare and replaces it with a version of his usual premium support plan.) The military has virtually no mandatory spending, so those cuts are all on the domestic side. A quick look at his section on national defense makes it clear that he plans no cuts to Pentagon discretionary spending, and Table S-5 shows that he actually wants to increase defense outlays compared to the current BCA caps. This means that the discretionary cuts are entirely on the domestic side. And there are no cuts to spending on the Global War on Terrorism.

So that leaves big cuts to Medicaid, Obamacare, and domestic spending. It would be unfair to say that all of Ryan’s domestic cuts are to programs for the poor, but he sure lays out those particular cuts in unusually loving detail. So let’s give him a break and assume that only two-thirds of the domestic cuts (the line items labeled “Other mandatory” and “Discretionary”) are to safety net programs.

Outside of interest payments, then, the grand total of cuts for the non-poor amounts to $129 + $322 + $153 = $604 billion over ten years. The grand total of cuts to programs for the poor and working class amounts to $732 + $2,066 + $644 + $307 = $3,749.

So out of total non-interest cuts of $4,352, it looks like about 86 percent of them are targeted at programs for those with low-incomes. Ryan will doubtlessly deny this, as he always does, since his blueprint doesn’t spell out all his cuts in detail. But the numbers are nevertheless clear. Maybe it’s not 86 percent. Maybe it’s 85 percent. Or 80 percent. The exact percentage doesn’t matter. No matter how you slice it, Ryan is balancing the budget almost entirely by slashing spending on the poor.

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