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Shrewdly, his budget assumes the repeal of Obamacare — a huge political winner.
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his FY 2013 budget — which on Thursday passed the House of Representatives yesterday on a 221-207 vote, then went down in similar party-line style in the Senate — he must have known that he would face criticism from all sides, including the usual liberal big-spenders and the too-frequent conservative circular firing squad.
And indeed he has.
We have the usual and transparently ridiculous suggestion by Democrats that cutting the rate of growth of government spending to a still-high 3.4 percent will cause the deaths of thousands of Americans, or other less severe calamities.
There are also critics on the right. The good people at Americans for Limited Government, call the Ryan budget “overhyped” because it does not cut spending fast enough. And AEI’s Jim Pethokoukis, one of the country’s smartest writers on economics, lists a variety of ways in which the Ryan plan “is far from ideal” — while calling for Ryan to be “unleashed” in order to “create a plan far bolder and more innovative.”
I understand these frustrations, and hope that an eventual American federal budget shows more spending restraint and entitlement reform than the current Ryan plan.
This does not, however, mean that today’s criticism from the right is politically savvy: Ryan lives in the real world and knows that major change must start somewhere. Show that baby steps are relatively painless; walk halfway to your goal, then pass legislation to walk half of what’s left, and keep doing that until we’re as close to the goal — whatever that specifically ends up being — as possible. This seems most likely to be Paul Ryan’s strategery, particularly when it comes to spending issues that the public does not understand well and has some fear of after years of Keynesian indoctrination. However, to the extent that jabs from conservatives makes Ryan appear moderate, he probably doesn’t mind (as long as his budget still passes the House.)
But the criticism being blasted at the Ryan budget from both bipartisan barrels is that it assumes the repeal of Obamacare.
Congressman Ryan is not shy about this. On Fox News Sunday, he told moderator Chris Wallace that “Our budget does promote repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a better system.”
Let’s dispense with discussion of predictable pushing-granny-off-the-cliff liberal fear-mongering and move directly to conservatives and libertarians who are attacking Ryan’s budget move against Obamacare as “highly unlikely,” as quixotically tilting against “the law of the land,” as not offering a detailed alternative to the law, and so on.
For political experts to be attacking Ryan on this point shows a serious deficiency of imagination and messaging — perhaps not surprising for a party that found a way to lose the presidential election to Barack Obama despite his presiding over the longest period of high unemployment in our nation’s history and having commensurate approval ratings.
Paul Ryan cannot possibly think that Obamacare will be repealed in the short term. But that is not his point even though pundits who should know better seem to think it is.
One of the talking heads in Fox News’s trio of “political insiders” suggested on Sunday that Ryan’s approach was ill-considered because the GOP had “already lost an election on that issue.”
This is simply not true.
The election season was disappointingly light in attacks on Obamacare, thanks to Governor Mitt Romney’s paternity of Romneycare which is causing skyrocketing health insurance premiums in Massachusetts, along with Boston having one of the nation’s longest waits to see a doctor. Whatever differences Romney’s law may have with Obamacare barely mattered because they were too subtle for the public to understand. In politics if you’re explaining, you’re losing.
So Romney was less able to run against Obamacare than any other Republican candidate would have been. In short, it is impossible to conclude that the 2012 election was a referendum in support of a government takeover of the health care and health insurance industries, which is what Obamacare manifestly is.
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