Saturday, April 07, 2012

Obama's "math" for Ryan's budget: the assumptions are the point

Ezra Klein has done yeoman's work defending the factual basis of Obama's attack on the Ryan budget, thoroughly pwning David Brooks' denunciation of that attack. (When it comes to arguing on a factual basis, Klein vs. Brooks has got to be the most lopsided serial mismatch in media today).  Klein demonstrates that the assumptions Obama made in sketching out the effects of the cuts were reasonable. I just want to gild the lily by highlighting that Obama went the extra mile and spelled out those assumptions, and why he was making them.

Klein lays out the challenge of evaluating the effects of the Ryan budget this way:

Ryan has said how his cuts will be distributed on the category level. He’s clear on the size of hit that “non-defense discretionary spending” will take. But he hasn’t said how those cuts will be distributed among the programs in that part of the budget. His numbers stop at the water’s edge of the real services and programs people use. And so the White House, to try and make them real, made a assumption — arguably, the only assumption they could make: They assumed that when Ryan said he would cut X category of spending by Y percent, those cuts would be dsitributed (sic) equally among the programs in that category
He then hones in on Pell Grants as a flash point, showing that Obama calculated Ryan's funding cut by extrapolating from the cut (19%) Ryan allots to the discretionary spending category in which they fall (along with zeroing out the program's allotment from mandatory spending). Klein then acknowledges that the budget language implies that Pell Grantsmay not be cut proportionately, as Ryan is now protesting.  But "if he’s not cutting Pell by as much as the White House thinks, he’s cutting other things by more. But he won’t say what. Obama 'imposed' the simplest of all assumptions: Equal cuts across-the-board."

To focus on the rhetoric: Obama not only spelled his assumptions out, he emphasized them, both to demonstrate that he was proceeding from a factual basis to the fullest extent possible and to highlight Ryan's evasiveness. In fact his stress on the assumptions underlying his "math" escalates as he proceeds. My highlighting below:
This new House Republican budget, however, breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes massive new cuts in annual domestic spending –- exactly the area where we’ve already cut the most.  And I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly.  So bear with me.  I want to go through this -- because I don’t think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget.

The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each.  There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS.  There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers.  Investments in clean energy technologies that are helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.

If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program.  Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food....[many more projected cuts follow].

That’s just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget.  Now, you can anticipate Republicans may say, well, we’ll avoid some of these cuts -- since they don’t specify exactly the cuts that they would make.  But they can only avoid some of these cuts if they cut even deeper in other areas.  This is math.  If they want to make smaller cuts to medical research that means they’ve got to cut even deeper in funding for things like teaching and law enforcement.  The converse is true as well.  If they want to protect early childhood education, it will mean further reducing things like financial aid for young people trying to afford college.
The hypothetical basis of the specific cuts outlined is not only acknowledged, it's central.  Obama lays down a gauntlet: if the Republicans won't specify the cuts they're budgeting, I will.  If you're not cutting where I say, show where else you'll cut. 

American politics does not get any more fact-based than this.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely explictated... I think that I may have to start reading this more often... and adding it to my blogroll...