Finally, House GOP unveils its budget plan

After being mocked for releasing a detail-free proposal, Republicans offer more substance -- their plan would cancel the stimulus, slash taxes and freeze spending.

Published April 1, 2009 10:00PM (EDT)

After a botched publicity stunt last week, the House GOP unveiled an actual budget proposal at a press conference on Wednesday.

The budget, which is at least partly an attempt to counter the charge that the Republican Party has been too busy lampooning the Obama administration to offer any concrete policy solutions, stands in stark opposition to the one President Obama proposed in February. It would cancel the entire stimulus plan in 2010, with the exception of Unemployment Insurance, make Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent and further slash taxes for top earners and corporations, freeze all non-defense discretionary spending for five years and cut health services for the poor and elderly.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, who drew up the alternative budget, told reporters that -- contrary to conventional economic wisdom -- the Republican plan is the only set of solutions capable of kick-starting the economy without creating crippling national debt.

"Rather than getting spending under control, [the president's budget] sends spending out of control. Rather than keeping taxes low to create jobs, it chases ever higher spending with ever higher taxes and results in ever higher debt; not just a modest increase in our national debt, but an unprecedented, unsustainable increase in red ink," Ryan said. "[Our alternative budget] is a budget that is lower on deficits, lower on spending, lower on taxes, and higher on jobs. We believe our budget produces at least 2 million more jobs than the president does, in just the fifth year alone. That's the way we want to go forward."

Republicans are hoping to capitalize upon widespread concern about the rapidly ballooning national debt. A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office projected that, under Obama's plan, the U.S. will rack up $9.3 trillion in debt between 2010 and 2019, with the average annual federal budget deficit exceeding 4 percent of the GDP.  House Republicans say their plan will solve this problem by providing for $4.8 trillion less spending over ten years than Obama's does, and by borrowing $3.6 trillion less.

It's all but impossible to give an objective analysis of whether that's true, as no official independent analysis of the GOP's numbers has been produced yet, and it's unlikely any will be. The CBO does not evaluate resolutions or proposals, only legislation, and the proposal doesn't fall under that category.

Besides, there's no chance this budget will be implemented, so the GOP can take creative and political license to propose what they want, and with the evidence they want. In at least one instance, the party's comparative projections approach the fantastical. The best example of that is one graph included in both the alternative budget and a Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by Ryan. Either Ryan and his staffers have achieved omniscience or they're getting just a little too creative, as the graph projects spending under Obama's proposal out until the year 2060 or so, allowing the GOP to draw a graph that shows a much greater discrepancy between the two proposals than what actually exists.

A number of the plan's strategies also raise questions in themselves. It's not clear how much the GOP's proposal for a "simplified" tax code that will take only 25 percent, as opposed to 35 percent, of any income higher than $100,000 ($50,000 for single filers) would impact government revenue.

Democrats have reacted to the Republican plan proposal with extreme skepticism. Said Kenneth Baer, communications director at the OMB, "If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's."

By Ben Travers

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