A Closer Look: Comparing Spending in Ryan and Murray Budgets

March 18, 2013 J

This is the fourth in series of blog posts focusing on the federal budget proposals. The first focused on Chairman Ryan’s plan, the second on the Senate Democrats’ plan, and the third highlighted the differences between the two plans on tax issues.

Every year, the federal government spends our hard-earned tax dollars on wasteful, economically harmful, and immoral policies.  However, since the federal government spends far more money than it takes in through taxation, it has run up enormous deficits that have ballooned the national debt.  Thus it’s important to consider the differences between the Ryan and Murray budgets on how they propose to deal with the government’s enormous spending addiction and the unsustainable debt crisis that it is creating.


Over the course of the next ten years, Chairman Ryan’s budget spends over $41 trillion while Chairman Murray’s budget spends just over $46 trillion.  Both proposals are lower than the CBO February baseline, which projects that the federal government will spend $47 trillion over the next ten years under current law.

Even though both budgets have less total spending than the CBO baseline, neither budget proposal cuts spending, technically speaking.  Instead, both budgets slow the rate of growth at which federal spending increases (see the chart below)—the key difference is that Chairman Ryan’s budget slows the rate of growth at a steeper rate (roughly $4.6 trillion over ten years) while Chairman Murray’s budget only barely slows the rate of growth (roughly $700 billion over ten years).


Since Chairman Ryan’s budget balances in the tenth year, there is a less rapid growth in the national debt under his proposal than there is in Chairman Murray’s budget, which never balances.  Since there will be less debt over a ten-year span, this will translate into lower interest payments as well.  Over ten years, Chairman Murray’s budget spends a total of $5.2 trillion to service the debt, while Ryan’s budget pays $4.5 trillion.


The Ryan budget replaces the automatic sequester cuts with instructions to Congress to find targeted ways to reduce projected spending, specifically by restructuring our broken entitlement programs, which pose the biggest threat to our nation’s future finances.  The total amount of these reductions would have to match the level of reductions required by sequestration under Chairman Ryan’s budget.  In other words, Ryan keeps the sequester while retargeting to the areas of the budget that need the most reduction.

In contrast, Chairman Murray’s budget cancels the $1.2 trillion sequester and makes no attempt to replace the lost spending reductions as mandated in the Budget Control Act.  In a classic tax-and-spend budget, in exchange for turning off the sequester Murray indicates that she would raise taxes by $480 billion.  Her budget makes only tepid reductions in the rate of spending increase over ten years.


Chairman Ryan’s budget begins to tackle the biggest problems in the government’s bloated entitlement programs.  His plan starts by removing the harmful spending portions in the President’s health care law and block granting Medicaid.  It also gives seniors the option of premium support for Medicare so that they can harness their market power and shop for the best plan for them.  Unfortunately, Chairman Ryan’s budget does not tackle Social Security, which must be addressed due to its coming fiscal insolvency.  In all, Chairman Ryan’s budget spends $3.7 trillion less on mandatory spending over the next ten years than the $28.9 trillion which the CBO current baseline predicts.

In contrast, Chairman Murray refuses to recognize that entitlement spending is the key driver of our current spending woes.  In the short term, she actually increases mandatory spending on entitlements compared to the CBO baseline and otherwise makes practically no funding changes to these programs.  Chairman Murray’s budget continues to operate on the assumption that these programs are structurally sound and not in need of responsible fiscal reform.  Americans, particularly those who are poor or unemployed, can’t afford to have such an irresponsible approach taken toward these programs.  Chairman Murray’s budget spends $25 billion more on mandatory spending over the 10-year period than the CBO current baseline.


Under both Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray’s plans, government spending will spend more in ten years than it does now.  However, both budgets lower the projected growth of spending—the fundamental difference is that Ryan’s budget lowers that projected spending growth faster than Chairman Murray’s budget.

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