So what does it all mean for this budget proposal I’ve been blogging about furiously today? Paul Ryan deserves enormous credit for coming up with a plan that is a step in the right direction and appears to have at least majority support among House Republicans. This is a serious proposal and Ryan’s critics have no offered no alternatives for dealing with the country’s fiscal problems. Many of those critics prefer to pretend that these fiscal problems don’t exist or are merely part of a conspiracy to cut taxes for the rich, despite a two-decade bipartisan consensus that some kind of entitlement reform is needed.
That said, we have to appreciate that what Ryan is trying to do is very difficult. Comprehensive agendas can be attacked comprehensively. It is difficult, as Newt Gingrich learned, to change the country’s political direction from Capitol Hill. Republicans do not control either the Senate or the White House. President Obama is not likely to ever sign a budget that repeals his health care bill, transforms Medicare and Medicaid, and contains spending cuts of this magnitude. That means Democrats have something to run against and Republicans will have no real-world evidence to contradict their Chicken Little scenarios.
The Ryan plan is going to be subjected to a lot of scrutiny. The first bit we are hearing is the fact that most non-conservatives don’t accept the job-creation estimates reached by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis. Static analysis is bunk, but good dynamic analysis is still hard to find — especially from scorers who are recognized across the political spectrum. Expect there to be attacks on the Medicare premium support system next. Unfortunately, it does not look like the Democrats are going to treat the plan as a starting point of a real debate. They see it as their ticket back to power.
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