Ryan: Obama's 'vision' would leave seniors poor, out in the cold

President Obama's deficit speech on Wednesday was neither specific nor credible, according to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan took to the Washington Post opinion page to defend his budget and take a few jabs at Obama's "rhetorically heated but substantively hollow" address.

Ryan's op-ed pointedly refers to Obama's "speech"-noting that it "doesn't even rise to the level of a plan"-throughout, while taking on the president's framing of the fight around "vision": "Unlike the speech, our budget advances a vision of America in which government both keeps its promises to seniors and lives within its means."

Obama's vision, Ryan says as he plays to the GOP base, would couple "greater reliance on government price controls… with $1 trillion in tax increases, which would destroy jobs and hurt the economy." Obama has said he wants to take on tax expenditures -- widely seen as spending within the tax code -- but he confirmed on Wednesday that he would also seek to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Ryan also takes a whack at Obama's February budget, writing that it was "widely planned as lacking seriousness." The Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that Obama's budget would double publicly held federal debt by 2021 and initially boost deficits before they decline.

"We cannot accept an approach that starts from the premise that ever-higher levels of spending and taxes represent America's new normal," Ryan writes. "We have a historic commitment to limited government and free enterprise."

Noting that "no amount of taxes can keep pace with the amount of money government is projected to spend on health care in the coming years," Ryan makes the case that reforming Medicare and Medicaid -- in the case of his own budget, by moving Medicare to a lump-sum subsidy program and Medicaid to a block-grant program administered by the states -- is the only way to avoid "leav[ing] our most vulnerable citizens with fewer health-care choices and reduced access to care."

Obama has repeatedly characterized his plans as the humane alternative to the savage cuts Republicans want. Ryan makes the case that cuts and reform are the only path by which government can remain humane: "Our budget offers a compassionate and optimistic contrast to a future of health-care rationing and unbearably high taxes."

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