White House slams GOP budget plan

March 20, 2012 at 5:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The White House Tuesday slammed a budget plan proposed by U.S. House Republicans, saying it would "end Medicare as we know it."

Press secretary Jay Carney also said the plan shifts money from the middle class and seniors to the wealthy.

In response to reporters' questions, Carney said the plan is "essentially a shift of money from the middle class, seniors and lower-income Americans, disabled Americans, to the wealthiest Americans -- the wealthiest among us -- [with a] $150,000 on average tax cut, additional tax cut, for the wealthiest Americans; a program that would voucherize Medicare and end Medicare as we know it, and create a system in Medicare where seniors are progressively basically priced out of the market."

He added the proposal "is not a plan that this president could support."

Asked whether Obama believes oil companies and hedge fund managers are hurting the economy, Carney said, "The president believes that the tax breaks, the loopholes and subsidies that exist that provide $4 billion in taxpayer money to oil and gas companies, for example, or provide untold millions and billions in tax benefits to some of the wealthiest Americans who take advantage of the carried interest rule -- that those provisions are not helpful to the economy and they are not fair, and that removing them would create benefits for the economy ... "

The budget proposed by House Republicans would cut $5.3 trillion in spending in the next decade, by collapsing tax brackets, lawmakers say.

"We don't expect to make law this year, but we expect to give the country an alternative choice for the future," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told The Wall Street Journal.

"We're going into this election with a specific plan and showing how we could realize it and get it done," he said of the document, drafted with input from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp, R-Mich.

"We think it's very important to have a clear message on jobs and the economy," Camp told the Journal. "The code is too costly, too burdensome, and it's hurting job creation, so we think we should take action."

The House Republican plan would cut tax rates and provide for two individual brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent, lower the top U.S. corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent, and nearly eliminate U.S. taxes on American corporations' earnings from overseas operations, the Journal said.

The current tax system has six individual tax brackets, with a top marginal rate of 35 percent.

The Ryan-Camp plan would scrap the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was intended to prevent high earners from using so many deductions that they end up paying negligible taxes -- but increasingly hits middle-class taxpayers because it's not indexed for inflation, the Journal said.

The plan proposes a Medicare overhaul and cuts 2013 federal discretionary spending $19 billion to $1.028 trillion, despite a bipartisan agreement on a debt-limit deal in August for $1.047 trillion in spending, the Journal said.

The Hill reported a side-by-side comparison with a different Congressional Budget Office baseline budget reveals Ryan's plan would actually increase the deficit by $240 million in the next decade.

"Republicans are on a maddening push once again to end Medicare and raise healthcare costs for seniors, while giving more special tax breaks to big oil companies and millionaires," Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said in a statement. Israel is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Ryan created an uproar last year when he proposed converting Medicare from a program in which Washington pays directly for healthcare to a "premium support" program for people age 55 and younger reach retirement age.

The premium support would be a subsidy or voucher to offset premium costs beneficiaries purchase through private insurance, limiting the government's financial exposure, Ryan proposed.

After criticism, Ryan proposed an alternative with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in December that would let beneficiaries use their premiums to buy traditional Medicare as well as private insurance.

Concerning House Republicans' proposal to drop discretionary spending by $19 billion -- a move the Journal said was to appease the party's conservative faction -- Senate Democrats called it a betrayal of trust and said GOP lawmakers risked another government shutdown.

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