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Dueling budgets

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More of the same. That is what Senate Democrats and House Republicans are offering in their spending plans outlined this week for the federal fiscal year that starts Oct. 1

In broad strokes, the House plan presented by Rep. Paul Ryan, Budget Committee chairman, mirrors past proposals in line with those he advanced as the party’s vice presidential candidate last year by attacking the country’s national health care programs, lowering tax rates on individuals and corporations, and reducing spending on domestic programs.

The Republican plan continues their relentless attempt to repeal or block Obamacare, which the GOP has tried unsuccessfully on numerous occasions and is sure to have no better chance of success this year.

Yet, repealing the national health care law — as unrealistic as it is — would account for a substantial part of the $4.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years proposed in the budget.

Mr. Ryan’s outline would restructure Medicare by replacing the fee-based system paying doctors and hospitals directly for medical services with one that gives recipients a subsidy to buy private insurance, but Democrats have blocked that plan, too.

The change would apply to Americans now under 55 to avoid drawing opposition from current Medicare recipients.

Medicaid would be funded through block grants to the states to control costs.

Mr. Ryan’s budget calls for an overhaul of the tax code leaving two individual tax rates of 10 percent and 25 percent, but it does not offer any detail on how to get there.

In a concession to Democrats, though, the Republican plan leaves in place the tax hikes enacted in January to avoid the fiscal cliff. It also breaks with past proposals by accepting some cuts in defense spending.

In quickly rejecting the GOP proposal, Rep. Mark Plan, a Democratic member of Mr. Ryan’s committee, addressed the political reality: “You have a Democratic Senate, a Democratic president. We might as well say we’re going to hire people to grab the pots of gold at the end of rainbows for revenue, because it’s got about as much credibility.”

For their part, Senate Democrats are also sounding familiar themes in the plan released by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray.

Setting up another confrontation with Republicans over taxes, Democrats are looking for a tax increase once again on upper-income Americans and corporations, just as they did in talks leading to the sequester. Nearly $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years would be matched by spending cuts.

Keeping with the Democrats’ philosophy of using government spending to spur job creation, their proposal would spend $100 billion on infrastructure and job training, while Republicans seek to limit the size of government.

Congress has seven months to work out a budget with the White House. However, the opening salvos in the upcoming budget negotiations show little attempt by either party to bridge the partisan differences that have separated them.

But Americans are tired of the endless bickering and gridlock that creates one crisis after another, which is one reason nearly six out of 10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll.

Reversing that perception can begin with President Obama and Congress doing the job expected of them in finding compromises and moving toward an agreement on a budget.

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