WaPo: Hey, a Republican budget plan actually cuts the deficit

When I agreed to support the call for a regular Question Time between the President and Congress — or at least the opposition — I wrote that the meeting between Barack Obama and the House Republican Caucus provided a win for both sides.  Obama got to look presidential and broke away from the Teleprompter, although the ground rules probably made him look better than he otherwise would have.  Republicans won too, I argued, because the media was forced to cover their substantive policy proposals, which undermined the whole “Party of No” spin that Democrats sold to the national media outlets.

Today, the Washington Post bears this out by reporting on the substantive budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan that actually does what Obama professes to want — cut the deficit (emphasis mine):

Rep. Paul D. Ryan says he is determined to make sure the Republican Party is viewed as “the alternative party, not the opposition party.”

That is a goal President Obama embraced when he visited House Republicans at their policy retreat in Baltimore last week, and he singled out Ryan as someone he would like to work with — even mentioning budget legislation the Wisconsin Republican co-wrote.

Released two days before the unusual back-and-forth session between Obama and the GOP, the bill sponsored by Ryan and five other House members would seek to reduce the deficit and spur economic growth by cutting the tax rate on corporations, shifting future Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to private insurance plans, and both raising the retirement age gradually to 70 and reducing the growth of benefits to make Social Security solvent. Even Democrats have acknowledged that it is one of the few plans offered by a member of either party that would lower the long-term budget deficit.

And how did the White House, in its full deficit-hawk mode, respond to Ryan’s proposals?

In a statement, Orszag called Ryan “a smart and engaging leader. . . . I always enjoy debating and talking with him.” But the budget director expressed disagreement with Ryan’s legislation, which includes a provision that Democrats have long opposed, such as allowing people to invest money they would pay in payroll taxes for Social Security into personal accounts and keeping tax cuts in place for people who earn more than $250,000 a year.

Orszag made that criticism public in hearings on Obama’s budget plan.

Ryan faces an uphill battle to get his proposals into a bill, let alone getting a floor vote.  But Ryan, who has been offering alternatives on health-care reform for months (which comes as part of the bill discussed in this article), at least has received some media coverage on those efforts.  If the Democrats don’t want to address Republican alternatives, it will be harder for them to excuse themselves by claiming alternatives don’t exist.

That is why a Question Time forum would be valuable to everyone — and probably why we won’t see another one, unless Obama drops so far in the polls that he needs to get another momentary bump.

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