House Republicans, led by Congressman Paul Ryan, released their budget proposal yesterday...yes, on April Fool's day. Unfortunately, this plan was not offered in jest.  And it's potential affects on America's seniors and their families is no joke.  
  • The GOP plan would cut Social Security. 

This proposal would means test Social Security, turning a social insurance program into a welfare program. Conservatives have long believed that changing Social Security's core mission is the only way to erode public support for a program which serves all Americans well, regardless of their income. Incredibly, according to the Wall Street Journal,  the Obama Administration says it "would have to take a close look at the GOP proposal on Social Security".

"Social Security reform, largely ignored since President George W. Bush's ill-starred initiative in 2005, could be resurfacing soon. On a conference call with reporters Wednesday where he generally blasted Republican budget proposals, a top Obama budget official said the administration would have to take a close look at the GOP proposal on Social Security, and hinted that the White House would have more to say on the issue soon."

  •  The GOP plan would privatize Medicare.
 Their plan continues the privatization begun with the passage of the disastrous Medicare Modernization Act during the Bush administration. The goal is the dismantle Medicare piece by piece and turn it over to private insurers. The Wonk Room has a detailed description of this proposal saying:

 "Over time, this proposal would turn Medicare into a voucher system in which seniors would get a check from the government and would be told to go buy private insurance. In the absence of federal cost controls (which are part of the Democratic but not the Republican program), health costs would skyrocket and the voucher amount would quickly fall far behind the cost of insurance. Obviously, seniors who couldn't afford to pay more out-of-pocket would become under-insured and insurance companies would make out like bandits. "

  • The GOP plan would rescind the recently-enacted economic stimulus package, except the unemployment provisions.
  • The GOP plan would provide approximately $4 trillion in tax cuts to the rich by extending George Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. It creates a new tax sytem that also benefits higher earners while also suspending the capital gains tax for 2009 and 2010. This proposal would also cut the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.
  • The GOP plan would freeze discretionary spending for 5 years.
We loved Matt Yglesias' description of what such a draconian measure proposed during a recession is akin to:
"Basically, you can imagine a school that today is serving a certain number of children and has a certain budget. Well, over the course of five years the population will grow and the number of kids in that school will also increase. But the school won't get any additional money. Instead, because there's inflation, the school will actually be getting less money even as it needs to teach more children. And so on across the board for federal programs. If you think that there's literally nothing in the entire federal budget that's useful, this may strike you as an appealing idea. Otherwise, April fools!"

In spite of all the clarion calls for tougher budgeting and deficit reduction here's the real April Fool's joke...even if these draconian proposals targeting social programs and the middle class were passed, the Republican plan would still leave annual deficits of about $500 billion, not much lower than the Democratic plans.