Dan McCarthy isn’t terribly excited about Paul Ryan’s “plan to balance the federal budget a generation from now.” Ryan gave him additional ammunition in his AEI talk yesterday, where he explicitly defended both his votes for TARP and the Medicare prescription drug benefit (he asked the audience to name “another government program that came in 40 percent under budget,” though he didn’t point out that it still added trillions to Medicare’s unfunded liabilities).
That said, even Ron and Rand Paul acknowledge that reforms to Social Security and Medicare have to be phased in slowly to avoid disrupting the lives of people who have paid into both systems and now have no time to adjust their retirement planning. Reducing Medicare spending will take time. My bigger concern about the Ryan budget is that it doesn’t abolish enough agencies, making it easy for future Congresses to undo his handiwork, and the spending caps require too long a period of fiscal discipline for members of Congress to maintain. I called it a modest “step in the right direction,” but the Ryan plan may represent the right side of the possible — and judging from the reaction, it’s not clear even it is possible.