Tag: budget savings

Federal Spending: Ryan vs. Obama

House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, introduced his budget resolution for fiscal 2012 and beyond today entitled “The Path to Prosperity.” The plan would cut some spending programs, reduce top income tax rates, and reform Medicare and Medicaid. The following two charts compare spending levels under Chairman Ryan’s plan and President Obama’s recent budget (as scored by the Congressional Budget Office).

Figure 1 shows that spending rises more slowly over the next decade under Ryan’s plan than Obama’s plan. But spending rises substantially under both plans—between 2012 and 2021, spending rises 34 percent under Ryan and 55 percent under Obama.

Figure 2 compares Ryan’s and Obama’s proposed spending levels at the end of the 10-year budget window in 2021. The figure indicates where Ryan finds his budget savings. Going from the largest spending category to the smallest:

  • Ryan doesn’t provide specific Social Security cuts, instead proposing a budget mechanism to force Congress to take action on the program. It is disappointing that his plan doesn’t include common sense reforms such raising the retirement age.
  • Ryan finds modest Medicare savings in the short term, but the big savings occur beyond 10 years when his “premium support” reform is fully implemented. I would rather see Ryan’s Medicare reforms kick in sooner, which after all are designed to improve quality and efficiency in the health care system.
  • Ryan adopts Obama’s proposed defense (security) savings, but larger cuts are called for. After all, defense spending has doubled over the last decade, even excluding the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Ryan includes modest cuts to nonsecurity discretionary spending. Larger cuts are needed, including termination of entire agencies. See DownsizingGovernment.org.
  • Ryan makes substantial cuts to other entitlements, such as farm subsidies. Bravo!
  • Ryan would turn Medicaid and food stamps into block grants. That is an excellent direction for reform, and it would allow Congress to steadily reduce spending and ultimately devolve these programs to the states.
  • Ryan would repeal the costly 2010 health care law. Bravo!

To summarize, Ryan’s budget plan would make crucial reforms to federal health care programs, and it would limit the size of the federal government over the long term. However, his plan would be improved by adopting more cuts and eliminations of agencies in short term, such as those proposed by Senator Rand Paul.

Obama Adopts Cato Pay Proposal

The Obama administration is supporting a two-year freeze on federal pay. I haven’t seen the details yet, but this appears to be a good start at getting excessive government pay under control.

I’ve been calling for a pay freeze since an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2006. Since then, average federal pay has continued to soar far above average private pay, which has finally prompted policymakers to take note. 

The Obama proposal would apparently save $28 billion over five years. Hopefully, that will be the first of many budget savings that the administration and Republicans in Congress can work on together in coming months. I’ve described other ways to tackle the government’s overspending problem here.

The next step to reform federal worker compensation should be to pare back overly generous benefit packages – for example, by eliminating defined-benefit pension plans, which come on top of the defined-contribution pensions that federal workers enjoy.

Another step would be to call in an outside human resources firm to audit the federal pay methodology, particularly the mysterious formula used to calculate the federal “pay gap,” which purports to show that federal workers are grossly underpaid.

See this essay on overpaid federal workers for details on reforming federal pay.