House Budget Chair Paul Ryan pushing entitlement cuts in member meetings

By Megan Carpentier
Monday, March 7, 2011 13:32 EDT
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chair of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just trying to win support for a year’s worth of discretionary spending cuts. According to Mike Allen of Politico, Ryan is meeting with Republican members of Congress in House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in groups of 10-15 to build the case for entitlement reform — i.e., cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Ryan’s interest in cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security aren’t exactly new: he released a report last February called “The Roadmap For America’s Future” which called for private accounts to be added to Social Security, benefit cuts for people under 55 and increasing the retirement age. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s plan would eliminate the deficit by 2060.

From the PowerPoint presentation he’s reportedly giving to GOP caucus members, he hasn’t changed his mind. In the presentation, he hews to the GOP talking point that spending increases are Obama’s fault before correctly noting that all discretionary spending is less than half of the U.S. budget — and non-defense discretionary spending is only about 20 percent of all federal spending.

Non-defense discretionary spending is the majority of spending targeted by the GOP’s promised spending cuts.

Ryan’s presentation doesn’t explicitly call for cuts to entitlement programs, but it does issue a series of “Guiding principles” for what actions to take on entitlement spending:

- No changes to those in or near retirement
- Fulfill the mission of health and retirement security
- Lift the crushing burden of debt
- Spur economic growth and path to prosperity

Though sources told Politico that there are no explicit suggestions in the presentation, it seems clear that Ryan plans to push for entitlement reforms close to those outlined in his Roadmap in 2010.

The slides show that Medicare spending — not Social Security — is likely to see the biggest increases between now and 2080, outside of the startling increases in America’s service debt payments. Congress will have to vote soon to raise the debt ceiling, or else risk default, and there’s little appetite in the GOP-controlled House to vote to increase deficit spending.

The presentation also notes that, in the last 40 years, the percentage of U.S. debt in foreign hands has risen from 5 percent of the total to 47 percent of the total.

Ryan has scheduled two hearings on the topics outlined in his presentation: one, on Thursday, on the debt; and a second on March 17 focused on entitlement reform.

[Photo via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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