Rep. Tom Reed, at his appearance in Penn Yan last Saturday, had remarkably little to say about where exactly he would cut federal spending. He painted a dire picture of a national deficit crisis requiring cuts somewhere, but didn’t say what specific cuts he favors. He was at pains, however, to assure his audience that simply raising tax rates the wealthy would not fill the budget gap.
Fortunately, some who were present spoke up to point out that relying solely on taxing the rich was not the President’s proposal. Yes, President Obama and Democrats are seeking revenue increases by increasing tax rates on the top two percent – and by a variety of other measures, such as increasing capital gains tax rates. At the same time, the President is proposing long-term spending reductions for federal health care programs, farm price supports, the defense budget, and other programs.
(In addition, the President seeks $50 billion for new transportation infrastructure spending to help get the economy growing again. Once growth accelerates – as noted in other posts – tax revenues will increase and the deficit problem will fade in importance.)
What spending reductions does Rep. Reed favor? We know that if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, air marshals, border patrol agents, and food safety inspectors will be receiving pink slips, while child nutrition and federal housing programs will be sharply reduced. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/opinion/pain-ahead-if-the-us-goes-off-the-fiscal-cliff.html?emc=eta1) If Rep. Reed fails to vote for a fiscal compromise, we’ll know that these must be the cuts he supports.
The congressman did say on Saturday that he favors a “doc fix” to prevent physicians from suffering an automatic 26.5 percent reduction in their Medicare payments at the end of the year. The doc fix may be necessary, but a one year fix is going to cost the federal treasury $25 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It was little disconcerting to hear Rep. Reed advocating for spending to help relatively well off physicians, while pushing a fiscal confrontation that will bring cuts harmful to the poor.
Rep. Reed also said that he felt Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, had been unfairly portrayed as an extremist for the changes to Medicare proposed in the “Ryan Budget.” Ryan’s proposals have been bobbing and weaving as they encounter criticism, but at their core, they call for replacing Medicare with a system of vouchers that recipients will use either to purchase private health insurance or traditional Medicare. The danger here is that annual voucher increases will fail to keep pace with the escalating costs of medical care, leading to cuts in benefits that will hurt seniors.
In September, Congressman Ryan was booed at the annual meeting of the AARP for saying that “The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare,” and for other remarks critical of the existing program. Evidently, AARP attendees found Ryan’s views extreme, even if Rep. Reed does not.
- The Doc Fix Economy (reason.com)
- Why the Republican Party Won’t Name Its Spending Cuts – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)