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What is the Ryan budget?

If you're already not familiar with the term, you'll certainly hear it over the next three months -- the Ryan budget.

What is it?

It substantially restructures Medicare; cuts Medicaid, food stamps, and transportation infrastructure; and it reduces the top tax rate from 35% to 25%. Regarding Medicare, the 2011 version of the Ryan budget would transform it from a government-run program to one where future seniors receive a voucher or premium support to purchase health insurance from private insurers. The Congressional Budget Office said the plan would force most seniors to pay more for their health care  than under the current Medicare system. The latest version, however, would give future seniors the choice of purchasing private insurance or through Medicare's traditional fee-for-service model, and it received the backing of at least one Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Ryan and his allies say a bold plan - reforming entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid - and slashing discretionary spending is needed to reduce the deficit and debt. But critics argue that the pain comes primarily from the poor and middle class. An analysis from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget Policies and Priorities says that 62% of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from low-income programs, while 37% of its tax benefits would go to those making more than $1 million per year.