The Ryan Budget Is Still the Issue

The Ryan budget cuts will be huge to popular programs--and guess who's lying about it?

Tom Edsall has a typically excellent weekly piece today on why the Ryan budget is still the main issue of this campaign in many ways. I was getting at the same thing last week when I wrote that post about how Ryan's budget will decimate not just domestic spending items that conservatives hate, like Medicaid and welfare, but ones they like, such as veterans' care and border patrol.

Edsall's great benefit added is that he lays out the precise sneaky little device they use so they can say, "No, we have no plans to cut that!":

The importance of the nearly $1 trillion in unexplained and unspecified cuts that Ryan and the Republican party are proposing, under the catch-all rubric of “Function 920: Allowances,” cannot be overestimated. These invisible cuts are crucial to the Republican claim that the Ryan budget proposal will drastically reduce the federal deficit (eliminating it entirely in the long run) and ultimately erase the national debt.

Ryan’s plan was passed 228-191 by the House on March 29, 2012, with no Democrats voting yes. On May 16, the Senate rejected the plan by a vote of 58-41. The vote among Senate Republicans was 41-4 in favor.

While the Ryan budget does specify cuts in programs serving the poor, many of whom are Democratic constituents (Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits), it hides under the abstruse veil of “Function 920 allowances” the cuts in programs popular with many other voters.

That is, only cuts to unpopular programs are specified. Cut to popular programs are just put under this Function 920 rubric, which allows them to pretend they're not real. And they're to some extent fungible, but this amounts exactly to "kicking the can down the road." If they decide under political pressure that they won't cut veterans, then they're just going to have to take that money from somewhere else. Food inspectors? FBI agents? Air traffic controllers? Something will have to give.

Obama really ought to be able to crush Romney in the debates on these questions. These things are popular--with swing voters, with Republicans even, and certainly with Republican governors, who want the money for their states. And Ryan, as some of us predicted, will prove to be a huge drag on this ticket.