The Poor Are Easy Targets

Tomorrow, Rep. Paul Ryan will unveil the Republican budget proposal for 2012, which he typically bills as a plan for tackling the country's long-term fiscal problems. For instance, here he is in yesterday's New York Times:

“We want to get spending and debt under control, and we want to get the economy growing, and we want to address the big drivers of our debt, and that is the entitlement programs,” Mr. Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, said in an interview. “We have a moral obligation to the country to do this.”

Of course, the "entitlement" problem is really a health-care problem, and any budget plan that fails to meaningfully address health-care costs -- specifically Medicare, the largest program in the federal budget -- is a budget plan that doesn't mean much for the nation's long-term fiscal health. With that said, what exactly is Rep. Ryan proposing? The Times explains:

It will call for deep spending cuts again in 2012, chart a path to reducing the deficit and slowing the growth of the accumulating national debt, and grapple with the politically volatile issue of reining in the cost of entitlement programs, starting with Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor.

Specifically, Ryan is gearing up to propose $1 trillion in cuts to the program, made over a 10-year period and mostly accomplished by repealing the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, which extends health insurance to an additional 15 million people. For Medicare reform, the Ryan plan will borrow from the Ryan-Rivlin voucher proposal. Under Ryan-Rivlin, Americans who turn 65 in 2021 or later will receive a voucher to buy private health insurance, in place Medicare, which directly pays for health-care services.

In essence, Ryan will "boldly" tackle long-term budget problems by targeting a program for the poor -- an incredibly easy target -- while leaving Medicare untouched for current recipients and those on the verge of eligibility. Put another way, Ryan has designed his plan to maximize cuts to the least well-off, while placating the current crop of Republican voters.

Naturally, this will only bolster Ryan's "serious" credentials.

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