There’s already a nifty nine-page synopsis circulating. It looks fab on paper: No tax hikes, a modest surplus by 2021, and far less political risk for the GOP than Ryan’s budget insofar as Toomey’s plan would leave Medicare and Social Security unreformed. In fact, per page seven of the synopsis, his budget’s softer on Medicare than Obama’s is:
This budget doesn’t reduce Medicare spending; it actually spends more on Medicare than either the president’s budget or the House-passed budget. This results from the fact that this budget permanently reforms the so-called “sustainable growth rate” so doctors do not face the prospect of devastating cuts each year. This plan also calls for medical malpractice reform.
So how do we get from $1.5 trillion in annual deficits to a surplus without touching entitlements? NRO was at the press conference for the rollout:
Pro-growth tax policies are at the heart of Toomey’s plan. His budget reaches balance by 2020 by lowering federal spending to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product, reforming the tax code, lowering marginal tax rates, and closing tax loopholes. It also reduces the corporate-tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and indexes the alternative minimum tax for inflation…
“It is my view that a permanent solution to the fiscal challenges that we face will require broader reforms than what we have in this budget,” he said. “But this budget represents what we think of as a necessary first step; it reaches a balance.”
Toomey, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said that he would vote for Ryan’s budget if it was brought to the floor. His budget, he emphasized, was not a competing document. “I see this as a different focus,” he said. “[Ryan’s] goal is long-term, it’s permanent solvency, and he walks through the structural reforms that would achieve that.”
In other words, while Ryan’s plan seeks permanent fiscal sustainability by reforming entitlements over the course of decades, Toomey’s just trying to get us back to zero in 10 years and leaving the conversation on entitlements to a later date. But … when is that later date? If not now, after a tea-party landslide in November, then when? I’m exasperated by the uncertainty, as is Cavuto in the clip below. Toomey’s reply is that they’re handcuffed by having a Democratic president and Senate majority so there’s no sense in chasing the white whale of Medicare reform now. Okay, but after all the rhetoric from Ryan et al. about how the fiscal apocalypse is nigh unless we deal with entitlements immediately, Toomey’s plan now turns around and says not only do we hypothetically have another decade before we have to move on it, we can afford to go easier on Medicare than even Obama wants to in the short-term and find offsetting savings elsewhere. I guess Toomey’s thinking that public awareness of the problem is bound to grow over the next few years as more Boomers end up on the rolls, leaving the parties with no choice but to take on entitlements, or possibly he figures that the political landscape will be better after 2012 assuming the GOP picks up seats in the Senate. Even if Obama is reelected, he’ll be a lame duck and Republicans will (probably) control both chambers of Congress. The political risk for Democrats in having O compromise under those circumstances will be minimal.
Among the GOP heavy hitters who co-sponsored Toomey’s bill: Rubio, DeMint, and Mike Lee. (Cavuto asked him about Rand Paul. Watch the clip to see his response.) Meanwhile, in case you’re wondering, yes, the Democrats do have a budget of their own: $4 trillion in deficit reduction, fully half of which is funded by tax increases. It doesn’t have a prayer of passing, but Kent Conrad had to submit it in order to win proud socialist Bernie Sanders’s vote and move it out of committee. So that’s the state of seriousness in the majority party this fine spring day.