With the release of their “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and fellow House Republicans have staked out the rightmost position on the country’s long-term fiscal direction.
The plan includes significant cuts in, and structural changes to, government-backed healthcare bedrocks Medicare and Medicaid; instead of direct payments to healthcare providers, the Ryan plan would create a system of block grants, vouchers, and exchanges. (Wonks seeking a favorable view, see here; for a denunciation, here.)
Occupying the centrist position is the bipartisan group of senators dubbed the Gang of Six, which is busily fleshing out the Bowles-Simpson commission framework. Unlike the Ryan proposal, the gang’s plan will include a mix of benefit reductions, defense spending cuts, and revenue increases. [Vote now: Should Ryan's budget plan become law?]
And on the left, we have ... silence.
Well, not exactly silence.
We have Paul Krugman chortling that voters who last year pulled the lever for Republicans because of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage program are “suckers.”
The Daily Kos-ites assure us that tax increases on the wealthy alone will get us back to Just Fine.
And by most accounts, the White House, led by Chief of Staff William Daley, has contented itself with what it considers to be a plum short-term political position. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Democrats.]
But it’s also true that the long-term budget debate will now proceed along a spectrum that begins with the Ryan plan on one side and Bowles-Simpson on the other.
There will be no left-liberal flank in this battle.
Perhaps that's why the Obama administration has been so quick to jettison its base: You can't go into battle when your soldiers refuse to leave their bunkers.