The “Restoring Balance” fiscal proposal created by Sen. Pat Toomey does lots of good things. Such as the following:
– balances the budget by fiscal year 2020 and achieves a modest surplus in fiscal year 2021.
– reduces publicly-held debt $4.7 trillion below the levels projected in the president’s plan.
– reduces publicly held debt to approximately 52 percent of GDP by 2021 vs. 68 percent for Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
– reduces publicly held debt to approximately 52 percent of GDP by2021 and lowers total spending to 18.5 percent of GDP. This budget spends approximately 3 percent less than the House-passed budget and 16 percent less than the president’ s budget with no changes to Social Security.
It achieves these things mostly by big, fast cuts to discretionary spending (including defense) and to Medicaid. Nothing wrong with that. But even Toomey concedes that it is not a comprehensive plan:
Restoring balance entails two distinct, but related, paths: near-term (discretionary and non-Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending) and long-term (Medicare and SocialSecurity). The first step must be to reduce discretionary spending and non-Medicare and SocialSecurity spending. This category of expenditures has been the primary driver of deficits over the last decade, and continuing to spend at such high rates precludes an effort to tackle the long-term challenges they present.
While Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid require structural reforms soon, it is neither necessary nor politically feasible to take them on all at once. Focusing on just the current 10-year budget window, this budget makes no changes to Social Security. Changes to Medicare are limited to restoring the fictitious and unspecified cuts projected in the president’s budget.
But it’s hard to look at this budget and not conclude that it reflects the success Democrats have had attacking the entitlement reforms in Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity. The Toomey Plan leaves Social Security and Medicare alone. As a result, it ignores that debt problem beyond a decade out. (Nor does it have lots of comparison charts that make it easy for gin up political attacks.) I have leveled the same criticism at Obama’s various budget “plans.” Implementing the Toomey plan would be a huge step forward. But since the American social insurance system will eventually need to go the Ryan path or become a strict, command-and-control rationing system, better to make the case with confidence sooner rather than later. I am quite sure Toomey knows this, and perhaps if the Senate were filled with his clones, this new budget would reflect that. But for now Republicans, at least those in the Senate, are not looking any further than the 2012 elections.