If you want to feel superior and depressed at the same time, read this New York Times story on the budget plan House Republicans submitted last week. The good news is that it balances the federal budget by 2025. The bad news is that it does so by assuming $147 billion in additional revenue from the “macroeconomic effect” of the budget itself. It also repeals the Affordable Care Act and the taxes that support it, but still includes $1 trillion in revenue from those taxes. Finally, it counts $1 trillion in savings from unspecified cuts to social welfare programs. Don’t worry, though: there’s a $40 billion increase in defense spending next year, couched as “emergency war spending” so as not to violate the 2011 Budget Control Act. We’ll find the war later. As Rep. Rob Woodall (R–GA) of the House Budget Committee put it, “A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are.”
Well, it happened: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned before I could record the rap lyric I serve humans like Kathleen Sebelius, / reading Jack Handy and Marcus Aurelius. She also resigned before I could design and construct the machine that would allow me to join the Beastie Boys in a time when that rhyme scheme was appropriate, but that’s the thing about building a time machine. You can finish it whenever. Today is Friday, and we’ll bestow our gifts on the people when we damn well please. Won’t you do a basically adequate job of serving humanity with me?
Let’s say it’s April 16th and you hate taxes, because
98% 12% of it goes to social safety net programs, better known as welfare. As everyone knows, most people on welfare don’t even need it. They just don’t want to work, and they probably make more money from lapping at the government teat than you do at your horrible job. The welfare queen has a storied history in American political discourse. We all know she’s out there, and most of us have a pretty good idea what she looks like. The problem is that the poor have so much power in America that specific welfare queens are carefully hidden. An actual person who picks up his food stamps in a limousine is almost impossible to find. So what do you do? Do you wait for the government to create a welfare queen for you? Of course not—you’re a hard-working American, so you make one up yourself.
Paul Ryan has released his new budget plan, and it is not well received. The editorial board of the Washington Post starts with the good ideas to be found therein, “since that is the shortest list.” At the New Yorker, John Cassidy all but calls it a work of fantasy. It balances the budget by 2023. It fixes the top marginal income tax rate at 25%. To reconcile these two conflicting and unrequested achievements, it A) forecasts much higher economic growth over the next ten years than any reputable economists predict, and B) repeals Obamacare while keeping the tax increases on high earners and $700 billion in cuts to Medicare that pay for it. You might remember that $700 billion as an aspect of Obamacare that Ryan and Mitt Romney relentlessly criticized in the 2012 election; now Ryan likes it. In fact, you might remember the whole budget as one of the most unpopular ideas of last year. Which begs the question: why is he proposing it again?
Earlier this month, the Times reported that the last-minute fiscal cliff deal passed by the Senate included a provision that would delay Medicare price controls on certain drugs used in kidney dialysis, including Sensipar. Most senators did not know about the earmark, which was apparently added by aides just before the final vote and will cost the federal government $500 million. Sensipar is made by Amgen. In addition to being the world’s largest biotechnology corporation, Amgen is also a campaign contributor to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D–MT,) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) and Finance Committee member Orrin Hatch (R–UT.) The company’s registered lobbyists included former chiefs of staff for both Baucus and McConnell.