'Radical' Ryan Budget Spends 46% More than Clinton's

Even in a city known for hyperbole, the attacks by Democrats on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan stand out.

It's "bad news in every single direction," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and "extreme and divisive," according to Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the budget is "not a statement of our national values," and her second in command, Maryland's Steny Hoyer, claimed the plan "represents a bleak future for America.

President Obama went furthest, saying in a speech this week that Ryan's "draconian cuts" would "impose a radical vision on our country" and that it was "antithetical to our entire history." It is "so far to the right," he said, "that it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.

So does Ryan's budget proposal live up to this radical billing

Not at all. That is, not unless you'd call Obama's Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, an even more extreme radical.

Under Ryan's plan, the federal government would be 46% bigger in real terms than it was in 2000, which was President Clinton's last year in office. That percentage comes from an IBD analysis of budget data.

Even if you take out entitlement spending — which has been increasing at a fast pace due largely to rising health costs and the aging of the population — and focus on discretionary outlays, the government would spend 30% more under Ryan's plan than Clinton's last budget.

If you further adjust for inflation and population growth, Ryan's budget still spends more than Clinton's.

Looked at another way, Ryan's budget would peg federal spending in 2013 at 22.2% of gross domestic product. In Clinton's last year in office, federal spending accounted for just 18.2% of the economy.

While Ryan's plan would bring spending down as a share of GDP over the next decade, the lowest it would ever reach is 19.3% — still more than a full percentage point higher than where it stood when Clinton left office.

And Ryan's budget is more generous than the long-term historical average, with average spending over the next decade slightly higher as a share of GDP — 20% — than the post-World War II average of 19.8%.

Democrats have also zeroed in on Ryan's tax reform plan, saying it showers money on the rich by lowering the top rate to 25%. But while Ryan would replace the current code with just two marginal tax brackets — 10% and 25% — he'd also cut loopholes to simplify the code and widen the base.

In that sense, Ryan's plan isn't much different from the proposals offered by Obama's own bipartisan deficit reduction commissionhttp://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf, which suggested a similar exchange of lower marginal rates for fewer tax loopholes. While the commission suggested three tax brackets, it put the top rate at 23% to 28%.

What's more, Ryan's plan produces tax revenues over the next decade equal to 18.3% of GDP, which is higher than the postwar average of 17.7%.

Nor are Ryan's proposed changes to Medicare radical. In fact, the "premium support" idea at the core of his reform has a strong bipartisan pedigree, having been proposed in the past by former Democratic Sen. John Breaux and former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin.

Ryan's current plan, meanwhile, has attracted the support of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin described Ryan's plan as "responsible and reasonable" and said that those who attack it "are obligated to answer this question: What is your plan for comprehensive tax reform? Entitlement reform? Preserving America's security?

He added that "the president's budgets are notoriously silent on these crucial issues, and the Senate under the Democrats' leadership has no budget whatsoever."