The Ryan/GOP Budget Plans: Dessert First, Spinach Later, Defense Always


Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy has an entry up at The New York Times' latest Room For Debate, which is about Paul Ryan's recently released GOP budget.

De Rugy's take?

Paul Ryan deserves praise for his continuous efforts to address the explosion of Medicare spending. Also, his proposed tax reform would make our system flatter and less burdensome, both steps in the right direction. However, reducing taxes today is not as noble as it seems if lawmakers aren't willing to cut spending enough to ensure that future generations don't foot today's bill. Sadly, this plan doesn't make the hard choices necessary and continues to kick the can down the road…

It would increase spending from $3.6 trillion in 2013 to $4.9 trillion in 2022 and wouldn't balance the budget for 28 years….

This plan is a "dessert now, spinach later" policy. In this proposal, the elderly would get the dessert now, and one day, younger people will have to eat all the spinach. Given the inevitable negotiations and compromises to come, Chairman Ryan should have offered a much stronger starting point — one that recognizes we all need to eat some spinach, now and later. Otherwise no one will get any dessert.

Whole entry here.

In a National Review/The Corner post about the new Republican Study Committe budget plan, which would balance the budget in five years, de Rugy notes that the RSC, like Ryan, just can't seem to truly deeply madly put defense spending on the table. "It exempts defense from scheduled sequestration cuts," she notes, which is a bad move politically and fiscally. Politically because the GOP comes across as having weird priorities and fiscally because defense is where a huge pot of money is and is traditionally the part of the budget that can be cut relatively effectively.

Above and to the right is a chart showing national defense spending in constant 2005 dollars.

As de Rugy has noted elsewhere, assuming full sequestration cuts (which isn't going to happen if the GOP and Obama get their way), we'd go all the way back to 2007 levels of funding for the Pentagon.

Which ain't so bad, especially considering the United States accounts for about 45 percent of all military spending globally.