LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
In a week dominated by news about this year's budget, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan still managed to cause a stir with his budget proposal for next year. To some mixed reaction, the House Budget Committee chairman's plan has been called both courageous and cruel.
Nick Gillespie of the libertarian website Reason.com has taken his measure of Paul Ryan's budget, tracing out what he calls the good, the bad and the ugly. He joins me now from Miami University of Ohio.
Mr. NICK GILLESPIE (Editor, Reason.com): Thanks very much. And I should point out that my favorite character in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" was the Lee Van Cleef character, but I'm struggling to remember if he was the bad or the ugly.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WERTHEIMER: Well, let's go back to Mr. Ryan and start with what you call the good about Mr. Ryan's plan.
Mr. GILLESPIE: There are two points that are particularly good about it. One is that he has raised the issue of entitlement spending. It's actually entitlement spending that is the real driver of out-of-control government spending, and that has really got to be the focus of restraining government growth.
And whether you believe in a big government or a small government, you need a government that can pay its bills.
WERTHEIMER: Medicaid in his budget is block-granted.
Mr. GILLESPIE: Yes.
WERTHEIMER: Does that - and I gather you think that's a good thing.
Mr. GILLESPIE: Yeah. You know, it revisits the idea of an entitlement. What block-granting would do is the federal government would say to the states, here is a certain amount of money that you will get every year to spend on health care for the poor.
Basically, what the idea is, is that state governments, and then the local agencies that hand out Medicaid, will be more responsive to the people who are there, as well as more responsible, because they know they're on the hook if, in fact, they run out of money, or they start giving people really bad care.
WERTHEIMER: So shall we move on to the bad?
Mr. GILLESPIE: Yeah. Sure.
WERTHEIMER: Let's start, as you say that Ryan ought to, talk about defense investment.
Mr. GILLESPIE: Over the course of the next decade, even with the expected wind-down of wars, hopefully, anyway, in Iraq and Afghanistan, he actually increases defense spending over the next 10 years. That's ludicrous because, among other things, he's locking in about 100 percent increase between 2000 and now in defense spending.
WERTHEIMER: So if that's bad - it does sound bad - what's ugly?
Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, first off, you know, this is a guy who is supposed to be making draconian cuts, and yet he increases spending by 30 percent over the next decade. That is not austerity, and it is not draconian, and it does not bring us near a balanced budget.
Also, what is ugly about the plan is that he makes ridiculous claims, which he and The Heritage Foundation, which provided them, are already starting to backtrack on about and reduce unemployment to 4 percent in a few years and then down to under 2 percent in 10 years.
Most people's budget proposals are filled with these kinds of bizarre fantasies that - nobody's buying them. So I don't know why people keep trying to sell them.
WERTHEIMER: Well, now, that is one of the things that I think would be something that might be ugly about the Ryan plan, and that is it doesn't appear to be at all likely to go anywhere.
Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, this is what's interesting is that when his budget came out, it looked like, okay, we have set the goal markers are between Obama's budget, which would go from spending $3.7 trillion next year to spending $5.7 trillion in 2021, that's on one side; and then Ryan's budget who would - he would spend $4.7 trillion.
And Paul Ryan's came out, and it looked like it was the budget-cutter alternative, but in fact, budgets are aspirational. They're political documents. As a result of that, we have a bunch of unrealistic spending expectations.
And Ryan's budget at least acknowledges that and says, let's slow it down a little bit. He doesn't slow it down far enough, and he doesn't slow it down fast enough, and he doesn't because he won't actually open up every object to the budget knife, including defense and including entitlements in the way that they need to be.
WERTHEIMER: That's Nick Gillespie. He's the editor-in-chief of Reason.com. He joined me from the studios at Miami University in Ohio.
Thanks very much.
Mr. GILLESPIE: You bet.