Some of the primary criticisms of Paul Ryan's new budget pertain to its treatment of Obamacare and healthcare generally. For instance, some observers point out that the plan relies on full repeal, which is improbable in the extreme, while others upbraid Ryan for including Obamacare's Medicare cuts, which the Romney/Ryan ticket ran against last year. I addressed these critiques on Tuesday:
Ryan's critics will therefore criticize his plan as an unrealistic waste of time. This is unfair. Budgets are intended to reflect the values and priorities of its supporters. The Republican Party remains in favor of repealing Obamacare (as does the public). The "Affordable Care Act" makes balancing budgets and reining in long-term spending much more difficult; it therefore follows that the GOP's solution to these problems would entail the law's elimination. Also, some people are already making hay over the fact that Ryan's budget keeps Obamacare's $716 billion Medicare reduction intact. They claim this is evidence of rank hypocrisy, since Republicans assailed Obama over these cuts during the last election. This, too, is unfair. The conservative critique on this front has never been that all reductions to Medicare are unacceptable. No, conservatives objected to the president's fiscal sleight-of-hand, which purported to take $716 billion out of one struggling entitlement program in order to finance the creation of yet another costly entitlement program.
The GOP budget's Obamacare repeal provision is not only a statement of principle and vision, it's an opening bid in budget negotiations. And Ryan's plan maintains the $716 in Medicare cuts, but directs those savings back into the Medicare trust fund to help stave off the program's insolvency (the key to which is the longer-term reforms he proposes), just as it did last year. One of the newer charges I've seen floating around on Twitter is that the FY 2014 Ryan budget repeals most of Obamacre, but keeps its tax increases. Perhaps this allegation arises from an NPR report headlined, "Ryan's Budget Leaves Obamacare Taxes Alone:"
The 2012 vice presidential nominee's dislike of Obamacare does not appear to extend to the $800 billion in new taxes it raises over the next decade. These include a new 3.8 percent tax on capital gains and dividends on households that earn more than $250,000 a year, 0.9 percent additional Medicare taxes on all household income over $250,000 a year, a new 2.3 percent tax on medical devices and a 10 percent tax on tanning salon services.
This assessment struck me as strange, especially since I'd just read a Politico story that quoted a House Budget Committee spokesman as saying this: "As we did last year, our budget repeals Obamacare and all of its tax increases." To clarify the apparent contradiction, I emailed the NPR piece quoted above to a source in Ryan's office, asking if it was accurate. His one word response? "No." He also passed along a clip of Ryan addressing this very point at today's budget mark-up:
"What we say is get rid of this ugly tax code -- with all the Obamacare tax increases, medical devices and such ... and replace all of that ... with a better tax system."
Will NPR issue a correction?