Defending Paul Ryan's Fiscal Roadmap

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 5, 2010

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Matthew Continetti’s words are definitely worth noting:

Key fact: Ryan’s plan preserves the current entitlement system for everyone over the age of 55. The rest of us will see dramatic changes in the structure of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax code–changes the CBO says will solve the long-term budget problem, in ways that increase individual choice and limit government’s scope. If nothing is done, America faces high interest rates, inflation, and economy-crushing tax rates. Is this the future Democrats prefer? After all, they have provided no alternative way to achieve the Roadmap’s outcomes.

Why is the assault on Ryan irresponsible? Because Democrats are pretending that America’s future budget obligations aren’t a serious problem. They have no proposals to limit the growth in entitlements other than phantom reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates, a parodic “spending freeze,” and independent commissions whose recommendations Congress will probably ignore. Democrats clearly hope they can preserve their majorities by demagogic attacks on Ryan. Meanwhile, the crisis approaches.

Reihan Salam piles on:

A number of left-of-center observers are delighted by Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform proposal, seeing it as a bogeyman that can make various centrally directed proposals look attractive by comparison. This is a debate I’d like to see.

Incidentally, one criticism has been that Ryan exempts workers who are 55 and older from his proposed reforms, a move seen as a sop to today’s elderly. One could also see this as a deferential nod to the fact that older workers have developed certain expectations regarding how their medical care will work. This reflects one of the conservative critiques of the extreme policy swings we’ve seen in the Greenspan-Bernanke era: stable policies are their own reward. The Ryan proposal offers a stable, sustainable course for the welfare state that promises to be far more stable than a centrally directed alternative that burdens the federal government with more complexity than it can successfully manage. Cutting checks — the core business of the Social Security Administration — is something government does well. Micromanaging medical providers, as we’ve discovered through long experience, is not something government does well.

Of course, Ryan is attracting all of this attention because he actually has a plan to address America’s long-term fiscal problems, while the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats merely offer platitudes. Instead of coming up with serious proposals of their own, the Administration and its allies in Congress have decided to call Ryan heartless and cruel. I guess that is easier than thinking up a solution to the nation’s budget woes, but it will do nothing to address those woes. If anything, the demagoguery the Administration and the Congressional majority are engaged in will only make matters worse in the long run.

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