House Budget

Editor's Note: Today TNR begins a series of items examining the details of Governor Mitt Romney's policy agenda. First up is the economy—specifically, how Romney proposes to boost growth and employment. Later installments will look more closely at Romney's plans to change the tax code and his ideas about organized labor, as well as other proposals including health care and energy. Will anybody pay attention to policy quesitons like these? We hope so. Substance doesn't always get the attention it should in presidential campaigns.

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Republican leaders have repeatedly cited support of (some) Catholic leaders in their opposition to the Obama Administration’s health care policies—particularly a requirement that insurance plans cover contraception, which the Church opposes on principle. But now Republicans are the ones catching grief from Catholic leaders, for violating a different set of Church teachings: about the need to protect the poor and vulnerable. On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a series of stern letters to Republican committee chairman in the House.

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Today is tax day. I was all set to write something about the importance of taxes and why, in the long run, most Americans need to pay more of them. Then I remembered I'd written that before—on last year's tax day. So here's what I wrote then. It seems no less relevant today. The only difference is that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has modified his Medicare proposal. But his overall scheme for the budget hasn't changed much.  Happy Tax Day. And I mean that sincerely. I don’t like parting with my money any more than you do. But I like what my tax dollars buy. Public schools.

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Senator Ron Wyden has an unofficial fan club and I consider myself a charter member. I joined in late 2006, right after the midterm elections, when a newly energized Wyden introduced a serious proposal for universal health care. The idea was elegant -- in many ways, a policy wonk's dream. And while it never became the template for reform, it had a catalytic effect on the debate. If not for the political conversation that Wyden's proposal started, the Affordable Care Act might not exist today.  I suspect Wyden is trying to reprise that role now, with a new proposal he unveils Thursday.

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Newt Gingrich has figured out the best way to stop doing things that make Republicans hate him -- go on vacation: Following a bumpy debut as an official candidate which included fumbling an answer about his support for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan and a report that he carried as much as $500,000 in “revolving charge account” at luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co, the former House speaker has set off for a vacation with his wife Callista. ... They had long scheduled time off early in the campaign,” said Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler.

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It seems sacrilegious to suggest the leader of the America's Catholic Bishops has made a deal with the devil. But his latest political gesture makes me wonder if he is in negotiations. Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter on Wednesday to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. The subject of the letter was the House Republican Budget, which Ryan wrote, and it was part of an ongoing dialogue between the two men. Dolan’s letter did not endorse the Republican budget per se.

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Raise My Taxes

Happy Tax Day. And I mean that sincerely. I don’t like parting with my money any more than you do. But I like what my tax dollars buy. Public schools. Safe food and consumer products. National security. The post office. Guaranteed income and health insurance for my aging parents, plus (soon) a guarantee of health insurance for my immediate family. I benefit directly from all of these programs. And I benefit indirectly from the stability they provide. Capitalism and democracy could not survive without a vibrant, activist government.

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You've seen hypocrisy in politics before. But rarely have you seen the brazen kind Republicans just showed on the House floor, when they voted for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity." Ryan's budget calls for repealing most of the Affordable Care Act, including both the insurance coverage expansions and creation of an independent board to help restrain Medicare costs. But it would leave in place the rest of the planned reductions in Medicare spending, at least for the next ten years.

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President Obama's speech today was about policy and politics. But it was also about principles, as Obama made clear early in his remarks:  From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.

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President Obama's big speech on the federal budget comes tomorrow. And during that speech, according to the Washington Post, Obama will be "promoting a bipartisan approach pioneered by an independent presidential commission." The commission is the one led by Erskin Bowles and Alan Simpson. The news that Obama might use tomorrow's event to promote their work is a worrisome sign. To be clear, the Post story doesn't say how specific or meaningful Obama's embrace of Bowles-Simpson will be.

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