Republicans have taken to describing President Obama’s budget as “deficits built to last” — a play on Obama’s call for an economy built to last. The implication: hand the government over to us, and we’ll rid the budget of this deficit scourge. Put aside for a moment that wiping out deficits too fast would be economically disastrous, leading to rocketing unemployment rates. The truth is there are plenty of budget proposals out there, including Paul Ryan’s “Path To Prosperity,” which was endorsed by nearly every Republican in Congress. And these also project significant deficits well into the future.
Of course, Obama’s budget is very substantively different from Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity. Obama’s would draw down deficits over the coming decade with a mix of proposed tax increases on high income earners and corporations, already enacted spending cuts, and additional cuts to health care spending and other programs. But it maintains the basic shape of the existing safety net over the long term. Ryan’s calls for huge cuts to the safety net, for making Medicaid a block grant program, and, after a decade, for phasing out Medicare. But he proposes significant tax cuts at the same time.
And even with all that slashing, just what does that do to the projected deficit? The chart below tells you quite starkly:
Yes, Ryan’s plan also gives you… deficits built to last! Ryan’s own numbers project annual deficits of about $400 billion under his plan by the end of the decade. Obama’s budget draws deficits down to about $600 billion over the same time frame. That’s not nothing. But it’s not what you’d expect given the GOP’s heated rhetoric.
Note, too, that Paul Ryan’s budget and the Bowles-Simpson plan based their projections on economic forecasts that grew gloomier over the past year — so their deficit projections are outdated, and perhaps a bit rosier than reality.