Speaking today at the American Enterprise Institute, Paul Ryan laid out the broader case for his budget and spending reforms. He again contrasted his approach with the president’s — “Do nothing, duck, punt, kick the can” — and said, “Our budget is very, very different.” Ryan made an economic argument that the debt we are accumulating is unsustainable if major government programs aren’t reformed, and also a philosophical argument this his blueprint preserves what is “exceptional” about the American system.
Ryan tied his entitlement reforms to the successful, bipartisan welfare reform measures of the 1990s. “In Wisconsin, we paved the way on that,” he said, giving credit to former Gov. Tommy Thompson. He emphasized that it was a choice between gradually reforming the programs now and having to do “indiscriminate cutting” and European-style austerity later. Ryan said that his budget would “fulfill the mission of our health and retirement programs” and touted estimates that it would be a “jobs budget.”
“When the government takes on too many tasks, it doesn’t do any of them very well,” Ryan said. And while Ryan incorporated the Gates defense reforms into his budget proposal, he remarked, “Our men and women in uniform are never just a line item on the budget.” Finally, Ryan addressed the question of whether the country — or even his party — was really ready for such a comprehensive reform plan. Ryan admitted he had given the Democrats a “weapon” to use against Republicans. But given a “the most predictable economic crisis,” Ryan asked what we would have thought if our leaders in Washington had seen the 2008 financial crisis coming and didn’t stop it because they were afraid of a Democratic press release.