Liberals love to denounce Paul Ryan as a puppet of the Koch brothers, a right-wing ideologue so beholden to the elimination of government that he is willing to push grandma off a cliff via draconian cuts to critical programs which comprise our social safety net.
Some on the right are even willing to run with this trope, saying that Paul Ryan is the hero we need to address the nation’s deficit crisis. Paul Ryan is not far right libertarian ideologue, and I say this as a far right libertarian ideologue.
Let’s take a look at what Ryan’s budget proposal actually did. Ryan’s plan did not actually cut spending, but instead allowed it to grow at 3.1% a year. His Medicare plan, which was co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, would essentially turn medical care for seniors from a single payer system in which there is no incentive to control costs into a voucher system, where private firms compete with each other for customers. One of the main reasons why this system would save money, aside from introducing competition amongst providers, is that medical providers would be able to occasionally say “No” to paying for unnecessary medical care. Of course, poorer people and people with costly conditions would receive a larger voucher, ensuring that they would receive coverage. While it may seem heartless to not provide seniors with all the health care they need, we simply cannot afford to give every senior in this country a blank check to spend on medical care. Furthermore, Ryan’s plan allows the Federal Government to continue to borrow money for another quarter century before balancing the budget.
Again: Paul Ryan’s plan is based on creating a sustainable entitlement system for seniors. He is on the record as saying he wants to preserve Medicare. How this position became one of a “right-wing extremist” is beyond me. Balancing the budget in 23 years is extreme. Extremely far away. In a saner world, Paul Ryan is what a moderate Democrat would look like. The debate would be between sustainable entitlements and welfare programs on the left, and complete individual liberty on the right. Instead, this nation has become so used to ever-increasing government that simply putting us on a path to sustain current programs is viewed as extremist.
That being said, having Paul Ryan as one of the standard bearers for the GOP is certainly a step in the right direction. At the very least, he has broached the formerly third rail topic of Medicare and Social Security reform. This afternoon, libertarian leaning Republican House member gave a tempered endorsement of Ryan, saying that while “not perfect” he “can clearly articulate the difference between the Republican vision and the Democratic vision for America on some of the biggest fiscal issues of our time.” Regardless of your partisan leanings, nobody wants the United States to emulate Greece in terms of unemployment or ability to pay back what we’ve borrowed. Rather than Paul Ryan throwing grandma off a cliff, it is grandma’s medical care entitlement which is driving our nation off a cliff. As my colleague Richard Lorenc pointed out, Ryan will be a spokesman for reducing spending and reforming entitlements while he is in office.
Last week, I wrote that the tipping point for the United States’ economy would occur when the Federal Government decided whether or not to bail out the state(s?) which inevitably will go bankrupt. I have much more confidence that Paul Ryan will say no to such a dangerous proposition than I have in Mitt Romney taking that stand alone.