A loyal TdJ reader wrote (privately) that my Romney-Ryan post on Medicare is irrelevant, because Romney’s fiscal plan differs from that of Ryan. Josh Barro discusses that defence of Romney at some length in the full column. Given the importance of this subject, I decided – contrary to usual practice – to post more of Barro’s column. Josh Barro is a political conservative doing his best to make sense of the Romney-Ryan position (positions?) on Medicare.
Cutting more than $700 billion out of Medicare over 10 years is hard. Ryan’s position is that he will make those cuts …. And they won’t hurt seniors. But we don’t get to know how they will work. It is no surprise that defenses of this position fail.
The other defense … is that even though Ryan favors big Medicare cuts over 10 years, Romney doesn’t, and Romney is at the top of the ticket. There are two problems with this. The first is that, in March, Romney said he was “very supportive of the Ryan budget plan,” which includes the Medicare cuts.
Let’s say Romney has changed his position — it’s happened before — and now he wants to restore all the Medicare cuts from PPACA through 2022. That would mean Medicare spending would … double in eleven years. ….
Romney has committed to grow defense spending relative to the CBO baseline. His campaign has said any changes to Social Security “will not affect today’s seniors or those nearing retirement.” I assume he intends to continue paying interest on the national debt. Now he wants to take Medicare off the table all the way through the two terms he might serve as president?
Together, those four areas account for 66 percent of all projected federal spending over the next 10 years. Romney wants to exclude all of them from cuts, actually grow the defense budget and be taken seriously as a deficit reducer?
What Romney and Ryan are up to is simple: They want to have it both ways on Medicare. They are for Medicare cuts, because Medicare is expensive and the federal budget needs to be controlled. And they are against Medicare cuts, because Medicare cuts are unpopular.
Josh Barro, “Romney-Ryan Want It Both Ways on Medicare“, Bloomberg View, 15 August 2012.
This column makes more sense to me than others I have read. If someone has an alternative explanation for the hole that Romney and Ryan have dug for themselves, please let me know. (Mitt Romney would no doubt like to hear from you as well!)
Columnist Josh Barro was an intern in Romney’s campaign for governor of Massachusetts. He is the son of Harvard economist Robert Barro (born 1944).