I am beginning to wonder whether President Obama is so cocky about his 2012 re-election prospects that he thinks he doesn't even have to be serious in his budget plan offerings.
Unfortunately, the nation's unfunded liabilities aren't so casual as the president; they are growing by more than $10 trillion per year, which means that our looming debt crisis becomes far more problematic with each passing day.
I invite you to compare Obama's recently submitted plans with either Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" or his own bipartisan deficit commission's recommendations. Or, if you're the risk-taking type, you may want to wait for the findings of yet another commission that Obama has talked about forming, obviously hoping this new commission would dutifully tailor its findings to his policy preferences.
Both Ryan's plan and the deficit commission's include specific proposals to achieve what the commission has termed "sustainability" in our budget and entitlements; Obama's plan is strikingly bereft of specifics.
Ryan's plan would reduce the deficit by $5.8 trillion in 10 years, mostly with spending cuts and revenue-neutral but growth-oriented tax reforms. Obama claims he would cut $4 trillion in 12 years, but his onerous tax hikes might completely negate his spending cuts, which he has yet to specify. Ryan's plan would begin cuts immediately, but the president's plan would postpone planned cuts and savings until 2013 — after his re-election campaign.
Ryan would freeze discretionary spending for five years to pre-2008 levels and index it to inflation thereafter. Obama's plan has no such spending caps.
But the major drivers of our fiscal crisis are the big three entitlements — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — which together contain the lion's share of the nation's $88 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Ryan has offered specific proposals for reform. Obama has resorted to partisanship, name-calling and fear-mongering and has offered only generalities.
On Medicaid, Ryan proposes a block grant system tailored to meet the varying needs of each state. Obama rejects the block grants approach but has claimed he will achieve unspecified savings.
On Medicare, Ryan has proposed a premium support system for those 54 or younger that would provide payments to beneficiaries and a list of guaranteed coverage options from which they could choose to suit their particular needs. This competitive model is similar to the federal employee health plan and is designed to bring costs down through market forces. Obama proposes to save $500 billion from Medicaid and Medicare by 2023 and another $1 trillion in the following decade but again offers no specifics as to how we would achieve those meager goals.
Here, with Medicare, we see the greatest contrast in their respective approaches. Ryan recognizes that artificial cost containment measures imposed by the government cannot work and have not worked any more than wage and price controls and that in fact, they lead to increased costs and rationing.