Speaking at the Economic Club of Chicago this afternoon, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) intensified his criticism of opponents of his "Path to Prosperity" budget plan, including President Barack Obama, calling their vision for the future of America one of "shared scarcity."
"To an alarming degree, the budget debate has degenerated into a game of green-eyeshade arithmetic, with many in Washington, including the President, demanding that we trade ephemeral spending restraints for large, permanent tax increases," Ryan said. "I call it the 'shared scarcity' mentality. The missing ingredient is economic growth.
"Shared scarcity represents a deeply pessimistic vision for the future of this country," Ryan continued, echoing Obama's characterization of Ryan's budget at his speech last month at George Washington University.
In that speech, Ryan said, "President Obama outlined a deficit-reduction approach that, in my view, defines shared scarcity. The President’s plan begins with trillions of dollars in higher taxes, and it relies on a plan to control costs in Medicare that would give a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in Washington the power to deeply ration care. This would disrupt the lives of those currently in retirement and lead to waiting lists for today’s seniors."
Ryan's Medicare reforms, however, would not affect any citizens currently 55 or older. "Our budget makes no changes for those in or near retirement, and offers future generations a strengthened Medicare program they can count on, with guaranteed coverage options, less help for the wealthy, and more help for the poor and the sick," Ryan said.
The disagreement between the parties, Ryan explained, does not relate to whether there's problem; there is bipartisan agreement that the current Medicare system causes rising health care costs. "As my friend Jim Capretta, a noted health-care policy expert, likes to say, Medicare is not the train being pulled along by the engine of rising costs," Ryan said. "Medicare is the engine, and the rest of us are getting taken for a ride."
But Ryan did say there is a stark distinction between his plan and the president's on what should be the solution. "Our plan is to give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers," he said. "Their plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors."
Ryan also discussed other aspects of the House budget, including its call to reform taxes by "scaling back or eliminating loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code that are distorting economic incentives," particularly those loopholes for corporations.