Obama vs. Paul Ryan: five ways their debt plans differ

2. The size of government

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The Paul Ryan budget plan would dramatically reduce the size of the federal government.

Both the Obama plan and the Ryan-written Republican plan would sharply cut federal spending, relative to baseline forecasts. But the Republican cuts go much deeper in what would amount to an assault on the current size of government.

Obama's plan calls for cuts in discretionary nonsecurity spending that would match the cuts proposed by the president's own bipartisan fiscal commission. It would result in $200 billion more savings than what was in the president's original 2012 budget, says a White House overview released Wednesday.

Ryan's plan, however, would trim discretionary nonsecurity spending by $923 billion over a similar period. In addition, the Republican plan targets a range of mandatory programs (other than Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) for another $1.8 trillion in reduced spending between now and 2022.

The Ryan plan envisions "other" federal spending (excluding Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the debt) to fall from 12 percent of GDP last year to 6 percent in 2022 and 3.5 percent by 2050. For comparison, the Congressional Budget Office says that category of spending has "exceeded 8 percent of GDP in every year since World War II."

The CBO says the Ryan plan, by holding such spending to the rate of inflation, means federal spending would not keep pace with population growth or average incomes.

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