Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Minority Whip, attempted to pre-empt Rep. Paul Ryan's new budget, which balances within ten years, by accusing the Wisconsin Republican of hurting "middle class, seniors, veterans, women, children, federal employees, low-income families, and those nearing retirement."
That is a response worthy of the demagoguery of President Barack Obama, not a serious budget analysis.
Ryan's budget, which will be released on Capitol Hill this morning, aims to balance the budget by trimming the deficit by $4.6 trillion over ten years. It is not based on cuts to government spending, but rather cuts to the growth of government spending--hardly the definition of "austerity," as the Huffington Post headline screams this morning. In addition, the Ryan budget achieves balance without raising taxes, relying on pro-growth policies to increase federal revenues and reduce the percentage of federal spending to 19.1% of GDP.
The Ryan budget is politically ambitious--it assumes the repeal of Obamacare--but also financially serious. One would have thought it would have been possible for Hoyer to welcome the overall goal of Ryan's plan, even if he differs strongly with some of the specifics. Instead, Hoyer, playing the good party man, blasts the budget in the propagandist terms that any Democrat, with no knowledge of the issues, could have used.
"Mathematically," Hoyer writes in a Politico op-ed, "there is no other way to eliminate the deficit in ten years without a balanced approach that includes additional revenue--and Ryan knows it." Actually, what Hoyer knows is that Republicans make dynamic, rather than static, assumptions. In other words, Ryan predicts that the economy will grow if taxes are low (and growth will fall if taxes are high), whereas Democrats assume, contrary to experience, that growth will be the same regardless of the level of taxes.
To Hoyer, using economic growth to balance a budget is "trickery." So, too, is the idea that spending patterns will change. Hoyer accuses Ryan of sneaking $2 trillion in cuts through the back door, in the form of "allowances" and changes in the composition of spending. He makes that accusation though he admits he has not yet seen the budget. No doubt, that $2 trillion will find its way into the Democrats' talking points on MSNBC.
It is odd, just when President Obama finally seemed to be reaching out to Ryan and other Republicans--meeting with Ryan for the first time (!) in his presidency--that Hoyer would have resorted to partisan attacks reminiscent of the 2012 campaign trail. What Hoyer is suggesting is not that the Ryan budget is wrong, but that it is built on bad motives and lies. Hoyer uses those empty, unsubstantiated charges to push an old tax-and-spend agenda that has sunk the nation into staggering debt. Perhaps the Democrats' idea is to have Hoyer play the "bad cop" to Obama's new "good cop" routine. That is unfortunate, because the Ryan budget is a serious plan for the future, and because Hoyer surely knows better.
Correction: The original article cited Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as the author of the Politico op-ed.