Here's a quick chart, via Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, of the difference between projected spending and revenue in Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan vs. President Obama's.
We'll be posting longer analyses of this later today and tomorrow, but the most cursory glance shows a couple of things. First, while President Obama's budget plan is a total piece of junk that doesn't even pretend to restrain any spending, Ryan's ain't all that great either.
To put it another way: If you can't even pretend to balance the federal budget over a decade, it means you're not really trying to restrain spending or even bring it into a passing acquaintanceship with revenue reality. One of Ryan's main talking points on his plan is that he will bring spending down to about 20 percent of GDP, "the historical post-war average." That compares favorably to Obama's scenario, in which spending stays around 23 percent of GDP. (The president commission on fiscal responsiblity and rapping about the enema man and churlish grandkids pegs the spending closer to 21 percent of GDP).
But the simple fact of the matter is that postwar average for federal revenue is around 18 percent of GDP, a figure that CBO projects will hit 19 percent of GDP by 2021. Any spending plan that shells out more than 19 percent of GDP on average is doomed to deficit spending.
Politics is the realm of the possible, blah blah. Only in a government situation where we're facing a shutdown on Friday and a debt limit squeeze around the same time—after a decade of completely bipartisan raids on fiscal sanity—can Ryan's plan be considered the realistic plan.
In the March 2011 issue of Reason, de Rugy and I proposed what we called The 19 Percent Solution, which would balance the budget over the next decade without raising taxes.
At the heart of the proposal is a series of cuts in proposed spending increases in each of the next 10 years that would leave still leave us spending more in 2020 as a percentage of GDP than Bill Clinton did in his last year in office:
Can the country get by on $3.8 trillion in 2020 (in current dollars)? It would be hundreds of billions less in spending than Ryan's plan. And you wouldn't miss a thing.