GOPer Offers Alternative, Dems Pounce; Pelosi: ‘Here They Go Again’

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 5, 2010 5:26pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: For months, Democrats have been on the defensive in Washington. Thanks to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, Democrats think that this is about to change. Ryan offered a bill last week, “Roadmap for America’s Future 2.0,” which would cut the tax rate on corporations, shift future Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to private insurance plans, raise the retirement age gradually to 70, and reduce the growth of benefits to make Social Security solvent. Ryan’s aides on the House Budget Committee say the Wisconsin Republican is a serious lawmaker who is actually tackling the fiscal challenges facing the country rather than taking the Obama approach of “punting” to an unelected fiscal commission. Democrats, by contrast, think that they have finally been handed the tools with which to expose what a Republican Congress would do. “Anybody who wants to see the difference between Democrats and Republicans need only look at their budgets,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Democratic National Committee on Friday. “The Republican budget provides tax breaks for the wealthy, it ends Medicare as we know it, and privatizes Social Security. Here they go again. Rehashing the same failed Bush policies.” “So I want you to take that home,” she continued. “The Republican budget that they presented to the House earlier this week, privatizes Social Security, turns Medicare into a voucher program, ends it as we know it today.” Pelosi’s attack, which was delivered to the DNC’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C., underscores the deep ideological differences which separate Democrats and Republicans.  Although President Obama said in Baltimore last week that Ryan is a “pretty sincere guy” and a person willing to “study this stuff and take it pretty seriously,” Democrats think the GOP lawmaker has given Democrats critical ammo with which to paint all Republican members of Congress. Asked why Democrats went from Obama calling the Ryan blueprint an “entirely legitimate proposal” to Pelosi’s hard-hitting attack in the span of just a few days, Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider told ABC News: “House Democrats will stand up for middle class families against the Republican leadership's budget that slashes taxes for the wealthy, privatizes Social Security, and dismantles Medicare.”
The broad brush attacks on Republicans are not entirely fair. For starters, Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” (H.R. 4529, CBO Analysis) is not the GOP budget. It is a legislative reform proposal offered by Ryan.  House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, made this point on Thursday when he downplayed the plan by saying “it’s his,” referring to Ryan. “I know the Democrats are trying to say that it’s the Republican leadership. But they know that’s not the case,” said Boehner. As for the specific charges raised by Pelosi, this is the rebuttal offered by one of Ryan’s Republican staffers on the House Budget Committee: “Provides tax breaks for the wealthy” — The proposed simplified tax code retains it progressivity, and cleans out the tangled web of tax deductions and credits that are disproportionately used by the wealthy.  The tax base is broadened so that rates can be lowered. It also offers generous standard deductions so that a middle-income family of four pays no taxes on the first $39,000 of its income. More important, the business-tax changes in the Roadmap would deliver what all Americans seek at this time — increased job opportunities and higher economic growth. “Ends Medicare as we know it” — Under the President’s budget, Medicare would simply grow itself right into bankruptcy. Unlike the Majority’s health care overhaul that cuts half-trillion for current seniors to create a new entitlement, the Roadmap makes no change for seniors 55 and older.  For those under 55, the Roadmap makes this program permanently solvent so that we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for future generations.  The Medicare reforms provides future seniors with health coverage based on the that enjoyed by Members of Congress.  ”Privatizes Social Security” — The Roadmap provides seniors with the option either to stay in the traditional government-run system or to enter a system of guaranteed personal accounts. Neither option is privatized. In the personal-accounts system, the accounts are managed and overseen by a government board — not a stockbroker or private investment firm. People choosing the reformed system select from a handful of low-risk, government-regulated options — just as Members of Congress and federal employees do. ABC News’ Matt Loffman contributed to this report.

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