By Erik Wasson - 10/11/12 05:46 PM EDT
Thursday’s debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will bring the contrast between House GOP and administration budget plans to the forefront in the presidential race.
Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the author of the last two House-passed budgets. Democrats have sought to highlight GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's endorsement of much of Ryan’s budget, particularly its proposals to change Medicare.
Below are some attacks and defenses the men are likely to employ in tonight’s debate.
BALANCING THE BUDGET
Ryan attack: President Obama has never proposed a budget that puts the nation on the path to a balanced budget. Romney has vowed to balance it in eight years.
Biden defense: Ryan’s own budget plans would not balance the budget until nearly 2040. This fact shows how extreme Romney is and how deeply he would have to cut to meet his goal without raising taxes. Obama’s 2013 budget adopted some of the Simpson-Bowles debt commission’s ideas and, if adopted, would stabilize the debt so that it is not growing exponentially by the middle of the decade.
Ryan rebuttal: Stabilizing the growth of the debt by the middle of the decade does not deal with the long-term debt crisis. That crisis is driven by the aging population, so it's necessary to deal with entitlements like Medicare, which Obama refuses to address.
Biden attack: Romney’s plan and Ryan’s budgets would “end Medicare as we know it” by giving beneficiaries the future choice of traditional Medicare or government subsidies to buy private insurance. A Congressional Budget Office study showed Ryan’s budget would force the average senior in the next decade to pay $6,400 more for their healthcare.
Ryan defense: Nothing changes under the Romney-Ryan plans for current seniors; it does not involve vouchers, people are given a choice and the competition will drive down costs. The CBO study does not apply to the House GOP 2013 budget, and the new Medicare plan was developed with Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden.
Biden rebuttal: Experts argue allowing seniors the option of government subsidies to buy private insurance plan will cause traditional Medicare to wither on the vine as private plans cherrypick the healthiest seniors. Wyden has said that Ryan's plan places too tight a cap on the value of the vouchers and that does not support it.
Ryan attack: Obama vowed to cut the deficit in half, but this year it was above $1 trillion for the fourth time in a row.
Biden defense: Obama worked with Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending over 10 years in the 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling. The size of government compared to the economy is the lowest since Eisenhower. Taxes are low compared to historical averages. Obama has a plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit that includes asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.
Ryan rebuttal: Raising taxes in a weak economy will worsen the deficit by lowering growth. The country can raise revenue over time by stimulating growth by lowering tax rates further through tax reform that cuts loopholes.
Ryan attack: Government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Biden and Obama want to impose trillions in new taxes on job creators starting in January, in the middle of the weakest economic recovery in 60 years, by letting the Bush-era rates expire.
Biden defense: Obama believes our deficits are unsustainable and has put forward a balanced approach that makes painful cuts to social spending. Raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires is fair, and raising rates on upper-income households will only return them to the levels of the Clinton years, when the economy was booming.
Ryan rebuttal: The Obama plan relies on budget gimmicks like counting war savings and cuts already enacted last year. Raising taxes on job creators in a weak economy will only hurt job growth and increase the deficit.
ROMNEY'S TAX PLAN
Biden attack: Romney wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion, and we can’t afford that. Ryan’s latest budget would cut the top tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent as part of tax reform. Romney is looking out for the rich, not the middle class.
Ryan defense: Romney’s plan includes no $5 trillion cut in taxes because rate reductions will be accompanied by the elimination of tax breaks. Romney has vowed that the wealthy will not pay less than they do now. Biden is playing class warfare and relying on flawed studies.
Biden rebuttal: The math doesn’t add up. To pay for the rate reductions on the wealthy, you have to cut middle-class tax breaks like on home mortgages and charity, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Ryan attack: The debt-ceiling deal slashed defense spending by $550 billion over 10 years, and Obama’s own Defense secretary says it would threaten national security. Romney will give the Pentagon the funds it needs.
Biden defense: Ryan voted for the defense cuts by voting for the debt deal, which was meant to force action on a deficit plan and will help us do so after the election. Romney is giving Pentagon more than it even wants.
Ryan rebuttal: The Obama administration is great at kicking the can down the road. It did not embrace the Simpson-Bowles plan, and its obsession with raising taxes killed bipartisan talks in 2011.
MEDICAID AND FOOD STAMPS
Biden attack: Ryan and Romney want to block-grant Medicaid to the states. They would cap the federal contribution to save more than $100 billion per year. This will force poor people to go without healthcare. The block-granting of food stamps will similarly force children to go hungry.
Ryan defense: States know best how to care for their own populations. They will be able to root out waste and fraud. ObamaCare created an unsustainable burden on states and must be repealed. Food stamp use has increased exponentially under Obama.
Biden rebuttal: Food stamp use increased because welfare is restricted and the financial crisis caused under the Bush administration threw people out of work. The cuts to Medicaid would be much less severe if Ryan and Romney didn't need to find a way to pay for keeping the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.