Strange Behavior

It is unclear whether politicians with their eye on the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination intentionally vier to the right or that they are predisposed towards this strange behavior. Representative Paul Ryan and Governor Bobby Jindal offered this week two examples of “what are you thinking” politics.

Ryan released his committee’s budget recommendation with the headlines, “proposed budget to reduce spending by $5 trillion (over next 10 years)”. One might be struck by this as a sign of fiscal responsibility. But if one is not careful, one is sure to get struck by the “dumb stick”.

What are the details that Ryan proposes to achieve these savings?

The Ryan (Republican) plan is to chop discretionary spending across the board and cap government spending on Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare would be gradually phase into a fixed government grant to individuals who in turn would buy private insurance.

Medicaid would be changed to a block grant program and States could use that grant as they felt appropriate. These measure represent a big pill to swallow if you are anybody but the very wealthy. To put a little salt in the wound, Ryan proposes to increase military spending. Hmmm. But that’s still not all. Ryan proposes to reduce taxes to two tiers, 10% and 25% It is almost laughable that any national politician would propose this massive a present to the wealthy while taking so much from the most needy.

Gindal made news focusing only upon the Affordable Care Act. He assembled already proposed talking points which also converted Medicare to private insurance program and Medicaid to block grants. Everyone else would go back to sort of what like things were before ACA. Back to the future.

On one hand, I give credit to these GOP members for taking a shot at fiscal reforms. Democrats, who own the moral high ground, have not offered proposals on how to make the current government spending fiscally sound. In an entirely different way, Democrats are letting down the very people they publicly say they are defending.

Putting the government on a fiscally sound basis must involve capping and reducing the cost of healthcare. Affordable Care Act is a step in that direction. ACA, of course, may not work as envisioned, or ACA may still not keep rising health costs in check. With so many other countries enjoying better health outcomes at 1/2 the cost, it will become more and more difficult to keep proposing GOP solutions which also will do nothing to control costs.

With respect to military spending, there can be no less stringent a review of where money is spent than with the rest of discretionary spending. Without a doubt there is waste in the DOD budget. Real world realities may, however, require continued high spending in order to deal with rogue countries. While that is not justification to maintain high discretionary spending too, the issue of fairness will need a full explanation if defense goes up and discretionary goes down.

These reactions, however, are not new. Many have called the GOP out on these proposals in the past. As we think about this week’s Supreme Court decision allowing even greater political donations, one finds it hard to avoid thinking that the real goals are not a balanced budget, or a more workable healthcare system, or even reformed entitlements.

The GOP number one goal must be first and foremost lower taxes and let the fall out be as it will be. Adding to that “benign neglect”, indifference towards women, gays, and immigrants, I can’t see how the GOP can expect to do better in 2014, let alone 2016.

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