The details of the new House budget from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are not available yet but we can be fairly certain of a couple of things. One is that the new Ryan budget will look very much like last year’s that called for ending Medicare as we know it, cutting a wide variety of social programs from Medicaid to education, and preserving tax cuts for the affluent. The other is that the public won’t like it because of these very similarities.
Take the Medicare provision first. The Kaiser Foundation recently asked the public whether “Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits” or “Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government would guarantee each senior a fixed amount of money to put toward health insurance. Seniors would purchase that coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans.” By an overwhelming 70-25 margin the public chose the former option, which is traditional Medicare, over the Ryan plan’s premium support model.
The new Ryan budget will also likely call for ending Medicaid as we know it, where the federal government guarantees coverage and sets minimum standards for benefits and eligibility, and replacing it with a system where the federal government gives states a fixed amount of money and each state decides who to cover and what services to pay for. Last year, when this was first proposed, Kaiser asked people about the Ryan budget approach and received a 60-35 negative verdict.
Rep. Ryan claims, of course, that these changes are necessary to reduce the budget deficit and avoid any decrease in military spending or, especially, any rise in tax rates for the wealthy. But he gets our priorities exactly backwards as far as the public is concerned. In a recent CBS/New York Times poll, the public overwhelmingly favored cutting military spending (52 percent) over cutting Social Security (13 percent) or Medicare (15 percent).
And when it comes to taxing the rich, the public says bring it on! In the same poll, by a lopsided 67-29 margin the public thought taxes on households earning $1 million or more a year should be increased to help deal with the budget deficit.
The new Ryan budget: dead on arrival in the court of public opinion.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis, go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.