The 2012 federal budget proposal offered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) creates what is best described as an exaggerated caricature of the reputation of the GOP establishment itself. “Tax cuts for the rich, program cuts for the poor,” laments Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. who calls out the proposal’s “radically redistributionist purposes.” The plan seeks to cut more than $4 trillion in federal spending in the next decade by radical restructuring federal programs that give health care to the poor and the elderly while preserving the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
Medicare, which currently covers 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, would be phased out; Ryan wants to convert the program into a "premium support system" over 10 years. People currently under age 55, "would choose from an array of private insurance plans when they reach 65 and become eligible, and the government would pay about the first $15,000 in premiums,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Medicaid program, which covers the poor and is jointly funded by the state and the federal governments, would be reduced to receiving only block grants from the federal government. Both programs are vital to the security of tens of millions of people, and the early reviews suggest a big political battle is coming.
In a recent column, Princeton economist and health care expert Uwe Reinhardt wrote this of Ryan's plan: “[M]ost of the risk of future health-care cost increases would be shifted onto the shoulders of Medicare beneficiaries. This feature makes the proposal radical." If Ryan and the Republicans have their way, those in society who need the most help -- the elderly, sick, and poor -- will be left to fend for themselves.