Free Markets, Free People

Paul Ryan


Why the Right Should Embrace “Fairness” in Entitlement Reform

This is a departure from my previous two posts; it’s not about a particular group that has pulled away from the GOP.  Romney pulled a slightly larger share of older voters than McCain did, even if fewer total turned out than in previous years.  That the Romney-Ryan ticket did this while proposing entitlement reform is a substantial feat, but it did involve watering down the reforms a great deal.  For example, Republicans now make a habit of promising that nobody under age 55 will be affected by their reforms.

Why make this concession when the lion’s share of the fiscal problem is current retirees and the many, many Baby Boomers who will retire soon?  Boomers vote, of course, but what motivates them?  I don’t think most seniors could bring themselves to act on straightforward greed; I think they’re voting based on a particular concept of fairness.

Specifically, they paid into the system over a long career, and they believe they should be able to get back what they paid in.  And even though current Medicare beneficiaries get two to six times as much in benefits as they paid in (if this is right), only about a third of Americans think Medicare beneficiaries get any more than they paid in.  As long as they think that way, they’ll continue to oppose means testing and raising the retirement age by wide margins.

You might be tempted to say that our task is to educate them, but it’s much easier to persuade people based on their current beliefs than to convince them of inconvenient facts first.  Republicans basically conceded that cutting benefits to older voters at all would be unfair, and pushed complicated plans that few people aside from Paul Ryan can competently defend.

But we might be even bolder if we just hugged that core fairness principle tighter.

September’s Reason-Rupe poll (PDF – fixed link) asked Americans if they’d support cuts to their own Medicare benefits “if you were guaranteed to receive benefits at least equal to the amount of money that you and your employer contribute into the system.”  It was a blowout: 68% yes, 25% no.  Three quarters of Tea Partiers said yes.

At a stroke, you could slash Medicare in half with a reform based on that principle.  (Their August 2011 poll suggested similar support for applying the principle to Social Security, but the cuts would be much more modest.)

Centering a reform on that principle achieves steeper cuts and seems easier to defend than what Paul Ryan is trying.  Because if Democrats fought us on it, they’d have to make the wildly unpopular case for entitlements as redistribution programs rather than as “insurance” or “savings.”

The kind of coalition the Right needs for sustainable entitlement reform has to include people who highly value fairness (or, as Jonathan Haidt would call it, proportionality).  If we want the project of liberty to be successful, we have to pluck on other heartstrings.


Biden and the VP debate: Effective or Gore 2.0?

In answer to the title’s question, it depends on what Biden saw as his mission.

Many of the election experts out there believe there are only 4 to 5% of the people left to convince they need to vote for a particular side. And through the years, VP debates have had little effect in that regard.

So, was Biden’s mission to convince those few percent of voters still deciding or was it something else?

If it was to convince, I think Joe Biden did a very poor job. As you’ll see in various news stories where polls and interviews with independents are included, he was considered to be rude, condescending and kind of weird, laughing at inappropriate times, etc.

But what if the mission was to fire up his base … a base that has been devastated by the performance of President Obama in the first presidential debate?

If so, he was likely effective. The base doesn’t care if he’s rude or condescending … in fact, that’s what they demand. What others call rudeness and condescension, they’re already calling “passion”. No great surprise there.

I think Jokin’ Joe’s job last night was to go out there and try to again rebuild some enthusiasm within the base. And with that mission, no matter how distasteful or disturbing his performance was to others, he probably succeeded. He wanted to fire up a little “Joementum”. Facts and figures? Hey, who cares, throw whatever against the wall and see what sticks. His job wasn’t to be right or wonky … his job was to be aggressive, overbearing and loud. Apparently that’s what many on the left equate with a good debate performance.

Remember, as we’ve mentioned any number of times, in close elections it’s about “enthusiasm”. Obama’s debate performance threw cold water on already waning Democratic enthusiasm. Joe Biden has attempted to relight the fire under the enthusiasm pot.

Performance wise, it depends on where you come from, politically, as to how you rate their performances. Most of the instant polls, less CBS, gave a slight margin of victory to Ryan. Both sides are claiming victory today. No great surprise.

Substance? Was anyone even paying attention to substance. Numbers and stats flew willy-nilly. There were a few good barbs from both sides. And, of course, the fact checkers will be out in force today. But does it matter?

I’m going to be interested to see the numbers of viewers for the debate as opposed to those who chose Thursday night football or a MLB playoff game. My guess is they’ll out draw the debate.

I was sitting at my grandson’s concert last night and I overheard two women behind me talking. One said someone had ask her if she was going to watch the debate and she’d answered “no”. “I already know who I’m voting for”, she said. And, incidentally it’s not the incumbent. The other woman agreed with her.

Another thought. Perhaps the Biden performance was his way to displaying to Obama what he thought he should do in his next debate. If so, it’s bad advise (something for which Biden is somewhat infamous). While Biden can sort of, kind of, get away with it because, well, that’s what you expect from Biden, it would be horribly out of character for Obama. It would also show a level of desperation that I don’t think Obama wants to portray. And, given the Biden performance, my guess is Romney would be ready for it.

Anyway, an interesting if mostly inconsequential debate. Ryan got to present himself to the American people unfiltered by anything but Biden’s sarcasm and sometimes loony laughing and he seems to have done fairly well if the insta polls are to be believed.

I think that’s pretty well the best he could have hoped for.

Biden? He did his job as he understood it and he probably succeeded as well. How this will all translate come November 6 is anyone’s guess, but if history is to be believed, it won’t have much effect at all.

~McQ
Twitter: @McQandO
Facebook: QandO


Democratic Senator Ron Wyden tries to delink himself from Ryan Medicare plan

To date it’s been an attempt that mostly gets fussy about word usage, but my guess is it will get more pointed:

Gov. Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts. I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’ I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget. Governor Romney needs to learn you don’t protect seniors by makings things up, and his comments today sure won’t help promote real bipartisanship.

That’s obviously in reaction to a statement by Romney in which he talked about legislation, not a policy paper.

So Wyden is right, the quote is incorrect.

But Wyden is being a bit disingenuous too.  You don’t vote for parts of a budget so claiming you voted “against the Medicare provisions” of a budget are a bit of nonsense as well.  Democrats voted against the entire Ryan budget, the Medicare provisions being only  a part of that.

Even Think Progress has some problems with the attempted delinking driven by the inconvenient politics of having a Democratic Senator’s name on a plan that Democrats have chosen to mischaracterize and demonize:

The plan Sen. Wyden co-authored with Ryan does bear a striking resemblance to the proposed Medicare changes in Ryan’s latest budget for the House GOP. Both keep traditional Medicare as a kind of public option, in an exchange where it would compete with private plans offering insurance to seniors. The government would give seniors support for purchasing these plans, and that support would be benchmarked to the cost of the second-least expensive plan. The plans would also be prohibited from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions.

Where they begin to differ is Paul supports more market based solutions while Wyden wants government based solutions.

But this sort of linkage is inconvenient when you’re claiming the GOP ticket is “trying to end Medicare as we know it” (even though it is ObamaCare which is pulling $700+ billion out of Medicare).  Avik Roy has the “bottom line” on that meme:

The bottom line: if Romney and Ryan leave you the option to remain in the 1965-vintage, fee-for-service, traditional Medicare program, and you claim that Medicare has “ended as we know it,” what you’ve really ended is the English language as we know it.

Pretty much. 

The point?  Ron Wyden did indeed “co-author” a Medicare plan with Paul Ryan.  There’s no question about that.  And it was indeed a bipartisan plan, by definition.  In fact the paper is entitled “Bipartisan Options for the Future” and lists both Wyden and Ryan as the authors.

Finally, their plan contains this paragraph:

We are a Democrat and Republican; a Senator and a Representative; senior members of our respective Budget Committees; and members of the committees that have jurisdiction over Medicare and health care costs. As budgeteers, we understand the difficulty presented by demographic changes over the next several decades. As members with policy oversight, we recognize and encourage the potential for innovation to improve care and hold down costs. And most important, as representatives of hardworking Americans in Oregon and Southern Wisconsin, we realize our absolute responsibility to preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordable, accessible health care for every one of the nation’s seniors for decades to come.

Sounds like a pretty bipartisan effort to me.

Here’s the problem for the Democrats.  They need badly to demonize Paul Ryan as an extremist who is out to push granny over the Medicare cliff and end Medicare as we know it.  That’s because “Medicscaring” seniors is a tried and true method of gaining votes, and Democrats know it.  They’ve deployed it many times in the past.

And bipartisan cooperation?  No way, no how, can’t let that sort of thing become public knowledge when you have an active campaign beginning to label Ryan as an extremist ideologue.

But the facts don’t support that sort of branding campaign.  Not only has Ryan not attempted in any form or fashion to end Medicare, he’s teamed up with a liberal Senator to put forward a plan to actually save it (even while the loudest critic is pulling that $700+ billion from the program via ObamaCare) and make it sustainable.

How inconvenient. 

That is why Wyden is trying his best to delink from Ryan. And you can imagine from whence the pressure to do so is coming.  But it’s a hard sale to make when his name is clearly associated with Ryan’s on a plan he claimed will “preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordable, accessible health care for every one of the nation’s seniors for decades to come”, isn’t it?

Not that it will stop them from trying.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO


Paul Ryan and what his nomination means

It means the Democrats are facing a strong ticket with the announcement of Ryan as the VP nominee.  It also finally focuses the ticket where most Americans want it focused – the budget, the size of government, the economy and jobs.

For Mitt Romney the selection of Paul Ryan is about as strong a choice as he could have made.  Ryan has an intricate knowledge of the budget and budget process in Congress.  That will be a critical skill in the next four years for an administration to have.   In effect, Ryan will become the defacto administration budget expert (dare we say “czar”) for the Romney administration and give that administration a level of expertise unknown to most past administrations.

Romney is a “turn around” guy.  He knows how to turn ailing businesses and the like around.  The combination of Ryan and Romney is and should be compelling to most Americans.

For critics of Romney’s “conservatism”, the addition of Ryan should cool their angst and shore up the conservative base.  Ryan is more of a Tea Party conservative (i.e. fixed on fiscal conservatism rather than social conservatism) but that is the sort of conservatism which is going to attract the most non affiliated voters. 

Our fiscal house is broken and in bad need of repair.  This is a team with all the credentials to do that, or at least begin a positive effort to do that (I doubt that it can be fixed in 4 years, but a lot of progress can be made in that time).

And, of course, that means trouble for the Obama administration, whose record is anything but compelling and whose leadership has been anything but inspiring.  Ryan, therefore, must be “destroyed” in a political sense.   So in the name of “vetting” – something that was never really done for our present president  — we will see all sorts of wild stories and opinions flying around concerning the new VP pick.

I’m not sure any of that will matter much though.  Why?

Well, there are indicators seem to be pointing out a momentum shift that  polls aren’t showing yet (we discuss that on the podcast).  A half-full fundraiser for Obama in his home town of Chicago vs an enthusiastic crowd who packed a Romney/Ryan rally at a furniture store in North Carolina.  Or the turnout at this event:

Earlier in the day, Romney and Ryan campaigned at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. The Hickory Daily Record reported that the two were “greeted by thousands.” A Romney campaign official told TheDC that an estimated 4,700 people showed up, with 1,700 people inside the event and 3,000 outside.

If the Obama campaign isn’t worried, then they are even more insulated from reality than I thought.

Fundraising is another indicator that all is not well in Obamaland.  Romney, even without Ryan as the VP pick, has been consistently bringing in more campaign donations.  And not by a little.  He’s been crushing the Obama effort.  That may be the truest indication to this point of how far the Obama brand has fallen. Donors don’t like to back losers.  Indications are that the choice of Ryan will only exacerbate that problem for Obama.

So Paul Ryan means even more trouble for an already troubled Obama campaign.

What should we expect, then?  A full-court press by the left and as dirty a campaign as you’ve ever witnessed.  The Obama campaign and its media surrogates and pundits are going to be in attack mode from now on.  In fact, just peruse some of the stuff already out there today.  Expect it to get worse.  The “Palin treatment” is called for because … because it worked the last time.  I would guess, however, that Ryan may be equal to the task ahead and perhaps turn that treatment back on those who attempt to apply it.

In the meantime, we have the opportunity over the next few months to actually discuss the most important and compelling issues facing us as a nation – if the media will let us.  Unfortunately, they usually focus on the horse race after picking sides.  And we all know whose side they were shamelessly on last go-round.

So I expect stories like this vs. stories about budget, spending and employment.  I expect, given the abysmal Obama record to see continued attempts by media surrogates to distract rather than inform or discuss relevant and important topics.

But then, that seems to be American politics today.  What’s surprising is how the left has managed, since the 2010 election, to pretend they never happened and that they’re back in the happy days of 2008 again.  I see a lot of “whistling past the graveyard” among them.  I see them and the media ignoring some pretty bold indicators that they’re in deep trouble.  And I hope they continue to do so.

Look, an economy that’s banging along the bottom of a recessionary dip and an unemployment rate seemingly stuck at about the 8% mark (or 14% if you’re looking at the U6) are not something any president wants to run on and, they’re certainly not something I’d assume he’d be keen about discussing.  

If Romney/Ryan will focus and force the debate about those issues without letting the Obama campaign successfully distract and divert that debate, I think they win.  And I think Paul Ryan is a strong enough personality to make that happen. 

That is what his nomination means.  And that means big trouble for Obama.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 12 Aug 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the Paul Ryan VP pick.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Gingrich–GOP plan for Medicare “Right-wing social engineering”, backs Obama’s insurance mandate

This is the major reason why Newt Gingrich shouldn’t get anywhere near the GOP nomination:

White House hopeful Newt Gingrich called the House Republican plan for Medicare "right-wing social engineering," injecting a discordant GOP voice into the party’s efforts to reshape both entitlements and the broader budget debate.

In the same interview Sunday, on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Mr. Gingrich backed a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance, complicating a Republican line of attack on President Barack Obama’s health law.

Yup, he’s a bomb-thrower with lefty leanings.  About as succinct as I can make it.  He’s one of those guys who believes in using government for “social engineering” even while denouncing something as social engineering.

Later Sunday, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he also acknowledged that many Republicans are uncomfortable with requiring insurance coverage but challenged them to offer an alternative solution. "Most Republican voters agree with the principle that people have some responsibility to pay for their costs," he said.

Here’s a thought – stay the hell out of my health care?

That’s the problem with politicians like Gingrich – despite all the rhetoric on the right about smaller less intrusive government, they keep coughing up candidates like Gingrich who always seem to find “solutions” in government.  My alternate solution?  Back off!  Change the law to allow insurance to be sold over state lines, get it out of the hands of employers, drop all the coverage mandates by government and let the market begin to work and shape the insurance product instead of government.

That’s my alternate solution.  And you’d think a so-called Republican would be out there pushing something like it – instead of jumping on the lefty bandwagon by calling a genuine effort to back government out of the medical care business “right-wing social engineering”.

Republicans – you have both Gingrich and Romney trying to make the unacceptable acceptable.  Is that what you want in the White House?

Bah.

Go make another commercial with Pelosi, Newt.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Fact Check Org fact checks Obama’s budget speech and is not impressed–factually speaking

President Obama’s speech on April 13th was used as an opportunity to spread false information about the GOP’s budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) according to Fact Check.org.  Among the deceptive claims were these:

-  Obama claimed the Republicans’ "Path to Prosperity" plan would cause "up to 50 million Americans "¦ to lose their health insurance." But that worst-case figure is based in part on speculation and assumptions.

-  He said the GOP plan would replace Medicare with "a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry." That’s an exaggeration. Nothing would change for those 55 and older. Those younger would get federal subsidies to buy private insurance from a Medicare exchange set up by the government.

-  He said "poor children," "children with autism" and "kids with disabilities" would be left "to fend for themselves." That, too, is an exaggeration. The GOP says states would have "freedom and flexibility to tailor a Medicaid program that fits the needs of their unique populations." It doesn’t bar states from covering those children.

-  He repeated a deceptive talking point that the new health care law will reduce the deficit by $1 trillion. That’s the Democrats’ own estimate over a 20-year period. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the deficit savings at $210 billion over 10 years and warned that estimates beyond a decade are "more and more uncertain."

-  He falsely claimed that making the Bush tax cuts permanent would give away "$1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire." That figure — which is actually $807 billion over 10 years — refers to tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, not just millionaires and billionaires.

-  He said the tax burden on the wealthy is the lowest it has been in 50 years. But the most recent nonpartisan congressional analysis showed that the average federal tax rate for high-income taxpayers was lower in 1986.

You may say, “hey, those aren’t really that big of a deal – they’re not giant fibs”.  Well yeah, they are – and collectively they paint a completely false picture of both the Ryan plan and the Obama plan  because the way he presented each was to try to present them in such a way that you bought into the premise his falsehoods painted.

Had he just stuck with the facts, the GOP’s wouldn’t have sounded too bad and his wouldn’t have sounded very good (for instance the claim that ObamaCare will save $1 trillion assumes the “doc cut” will actually be made when there is absolutely no indication it will ever be made).

So he just made stuff up out of thin air or presented it in a highly-partisan way to make it sound much worse than it is.

We should expect better than that from the President of the US shouldn’t we?

And wasn’t he the guy who promised such “hope and change” in DC with his administration?  That’s one campaign promise (among many others) that simply will never get the green checkmark in the box beside it.  It is a complete and total “no-go”.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Apr 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss this week’s battles over the budget.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Ryan budget proposal: you can pay me now or you can really pay me a heck of a lot later (updated)

Problem:  As a nation we’re in dangerous debt territory.  If we don’t do something quickly and dramatically, we’re headed for some very rough and painful times.

But while it seems the American public senses this on the whole, polls seem to indicate that all the “free” stuff handed out by government is popular with a large percentage of the population.  Or said another way, they understand that we have a debt problem, they understand the implications of that problem and they don’t mind spending cuts – just so the spending cuts don’t effect programs they like.

The problem is further compounded by an irresponsible administration which gives the debt problem lip service but submits budgets that exponentially increase the problem:

The president’s recent budget proposal would accelerate America’s descent into a debt crisis. It doubles debt held by the public by the end of his first term and triples it by 2021. It imposes $1.5 trillion in new taxes, with spending that never falls below 23% of the economy. His budget permanently enlarges the size of government. It offers no reforms to save government health and retirement programs, and no leadership.

Both of these facts make it hard for those who would actually like to address the problem of debt before it overwhelms us.  That’s because they’ll really get no support politically from the administration, no call to arms and leadership, and the American people are proving to be fickle about the whole process sending very mixed signals.

Solution?

Well the obvious solution is to find some means of cutting spending to at least the level of revenue and to begin working to pay the debt down in an earnest and timely manner.  What isn’t a solution is business as usual but on steroids as proposed by the President.  So today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the GOP plan to address the problem.  Or at least part of the problem.  That of out-of-control spending and addressing the debt.  How it will play with the American people remains to be seen, but it is both an earnest and timely proposal.  It also makes some pretty dramatic cuts which is where you can expect to see the pushback.

For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion.

But there’s pain in them thar words.  And it means things are going to have to be quite different in some areas than they are now.  Government is going to have to be rolled back.  That is unless we’re partial to a complete collapse of our economy and our currency, hyper inflation and all the good times those developments would bring.

So to specifics in Ryan’s proposal.  Addressing welfare in general, he says:

This budget will build upon the historic welfare reforms of the late 1990s by converting the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant that lets states create a range of options and gives Medicaid patients access to better care. It proposes similar reforms to the food-stamp program, ending the flawed incentive structure that rewards states for adding to the rolls. Finally, this budget recognizes that the best welfare program is one that ends with a job—it consolidates dozens of duplicative job-training programs into more accessible, accountable career scholarships that will better serve people looking for work.

As we strengthen and improve welfare programs for those who need them, we eliminate welfare for those who don’t. Our budget targets corporate welfare, starting by ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that is costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. It gets rid of the permanent Wall Street bailout authority that Congress created last year. And it rolls back expensive handouts for uncompetitive sources of energy, calling instead for a free and open marketplace for energy development, innovation and exploration.

I am quite pleased to see the second paragraph.  It is indeed time to eliminate “corporate welfare” and subsidies for favored industries.  It also takes on what we would call traditional welfare.  And make no mistake about it Medicaid and food stamps are welfare.    As for the “perverse incentives” Ryan points too, here’s what they’ve yielded recently:

Snap 1

I’m sure some of that comes with the economic downturn, but it also indicates the effect of the incentives to sign people up for the welfare program.

We can’t afford the level of welfare we’re paying out now – and that included corporate welfare and subsidies.  We are a compassionate people, but I end up shaking my head when I hear government officials claiming that people at “4 times the poverty level” need help?  Really?  So what’s the purpose of the poverty level as a measure and why are we now convinced we have to “help” people well above that level?

Then there are the twin third rails of politics, but areas where dramatic reforms are absolutely necessary to get us on the right fiscal track as a country.  And those are Medicare and Social Security.  The Ryan plan:

Health and retirement security: This budget’s reforms will protect health and retirement security. This starts with saving Medicare. The open-ended, blank-check nature of the Medicare subsidy threatens the solvency of this critical program and creates inexcusable levels of waste. This budget takes action where others have ducked. But because government should not force people to reorganize their lives, its reforms will not affect those in or near retirement in any way.

Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy. Future Medicare recipients will be able to choose a plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options. This is not a voucher program but rather a premium-support model. A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, to the plan chosen by the beneficiary, subsidizing its cost.

In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower- income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. Reform that empowers individuals—with more help for the poor and the sick—will guarantee that Medicare can fulfill the promise of health security for America’s seniors.

I’ve already seen some on the left characterizing this as "privatizing" Medicare. And, of course, as we all know, that’s dangerous as government always does it better – look at the budgets for example. Look at the debt.

In fact, what Ryan is talking about is giving seniors a choice vs. automatically enrolling them in a government insurance program that averages about $60 billion a year in waste, fraud and abuse.  There will be a subsidy – probably means tested.  Is the the ideal libertarian answer?  No.  But as I’ve said before, freedom is choice and any legislation that expands that is at least a step in the right direction. 

We must also reform Social Security to prevent severe cuts to future benefits. This budget forces policy makers to work together to enact common-sense reforms. The goal of this proposal is to save Social Security for current retirees and strengthen it for future generations by building upon ideas offered by the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission.

Perhaps raise the caps (I gave a certain percentage to my 401k regardless of how much I earned, so doing the same with Social Security doesn’t really bother me.  And it will provide increased revenue for the fund.  Again, ideal?  No, but then I don’t consider either Medicare or Social Security to be “welfare” since most participants have paid into those systems for their entire working life.   But there are changes which will have to be made.  I don’t favor means testing if the cap is raised.  But I do think that a hard look at the retirement age is necessary.  My ideal outcome, obviously, would be getting government out of the retirement income business, but that’s not going to happen.  So Social Security has to be made self-supporting and not a drain on the budget – as does Medicare.

Budget enforcement: This budget recognizes that it is not enough to change how much government spends. We must also change how government spends. It proposes budget-process reforms—including real, enforceable caps on spending—to make sure government spends and taxes only as much as it needs to fulfill its constitutionally prescribed roles.

If we don’t get some restrictions on government spending, nothing is going to change.  Nothing.  We’ve watched Congress talk the talk for decades, ala Nancy PAYGO Pelosi.  But they ignore their own legislation and policy at will.   As Ryan says, there have to be “real, enforceable caps on spending”.  I interpret that as “you cannot and will not spend more than you take in”.  We’ll see how the Congress interprets that.

Tax reform: This budget would focus on growth by reforming the nation’s outdated tax code, consolidating brackets, lowering tax rates, and assuming top individual and corporate rates of 25%. It maintains a revenue-neutral approach by clearing out a burdensome tangle of deductions and loopholes that distort economic activity and leave some corporations paying no income taxes at all.

Here is something that is going to be as hard to do as entitlement reform.  Why?  Because the tax system provides Congress with another way to wield its power.  But the way it has wielded this power has done precisely what Rep. Ryan points too here – it has “distort[ed] economic activity.”  Make the system simple, remove the loopholes, broaden the base (get some more “skin” in the game from those who now don’t pay taxes) and my guess is you’ll not only see an increase in revenue, but a far greater increase in economic activity.

Bottom line:  We are in a “you can pay me now or you can pay me later” moment.  And if we wait, we’re going to be paying a price we’re just not willing to pay, all because we chose to avoid the pain now.   I’m sure the opponents of this proposal are going to call it “extreme” and something that will “hurt the children”.  Trust me, if you want to see extreme, put it off until this house of cards collapses.  And if you want to avoid “hurting the children”, man up and face the pain now to avoid it later when it really will “hurt the children”.

UPDATE: Chris Edwards at CATO gives his take on the Ryan budget.  I’m pretty much agreed with everything Edwards says:

  • Ryan doesn’t provide specific Social Security cuts, instead proposing a budget mechanism to force Congress to take action on the program. It is disappointing that his plan doesn’t include common sense reforms such raising the retirement age.
  • Ryan finds modest Medicare savings in the short term, but the big savings occur beyond 10 years when his “premium support” reform is fully implemented. I would rather see Ryan’s Medicare reforms kick in sooner, which after all are designed to improve quality and efficiency in the health care system.
  • Ryan adopts Obama’s proposed defense (security) savings, but larger cuts are called for. After all, defense spending has doubled over the last decade, even excluding the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Ryan includes modest cuts to nonsecurity discretionary spending. Larger cuts are needed, including termination of entire agencies. See DownsizingGovernment.org.
  • Ryan makes substantial cuts to other entitlements, such as farm subsidies. Bravo!
  • Ryan would turn Medicaid and food stamps into block grants. That is an excellent direction for reform, and it would allow Congress to steadily reduce spending and ultimately devolve these programs to the states.
  • Ryan would repeal the costly 2010 health care law. Bravo!

Here’s a chart Edwards includes in his post:

201104_blog_edwards52

 

I’m a huge supporter of military spending in order to maintain our national security and technological edge, but I find it hard to believe that there aren’t many places where savings could be accrued in “Security”.  And I’d also note under the broad “Security” umbrella fall many other programs that could be cut – like the entire TSA.  But, in any event, it is an area that should also be looked at with an eye for cutting spending.  It would get us to our goal of paying down the debt even sooner and it can be done without jeopardizing our security (cut costs not capability).

UPDATE II:  Geoff over at Ace of Spades gives a little context to the Ryan proposal:

PublicDebtRyanvsCommissionSmall

 

Now, where I come from, the “extremes” are on either side of a situation, right?

~McQ


Big tent, little tent, both parties contend with tough changes

I‘m headed to CPAC this week. Just thought it would be a good idea – there’s going to be quite a libertarian contingent there. Doug Mataconis from Outside the Beltway, Jason Pye from United Liberty (and an occasional contributor to QandO), as well as members of CATO.

There’s a reason I think it is important to go and that’s to see what is in store on the conservative side of things for the promise of smaller government and less spending. I’d like to join other libertarians in influencing that move toward both smaller (and less intrusive) government and much less spending.

But I’m certainly not going to line up very well with the social conservatives. Such is life – my bet is we can find common ground on the fiscal and governmental side of things. And, if you’re familiar with the neo-libertarian strategy, it is to try to work within the existing system to influence and change those things we can by pushing for change that enhances basic liberty. Call it a bit of putting my money where my mouth is.

That’s also what I characterize as "the pragmatic approach". The system we have is what we have – I can stand outside and throw rocks at it, or I can work inside and try to change it. And no, working inside certainly doesn’t mean I "accept" the system as the end product or am "validating" it by working within it. I’m simply pointing out that the most effective way, in my opinion, of changing things is to work with those of a like mind and create a synergy that finally makes that change. I see CPAC as a valuable forum for such action. Lots of those who are actually involved at a national level in doing such things will be there (Rep. Paul Ryan, for instance, and Sen. Rand Paul).

It’s also an opportunity to network with a lot of bloggers I’ve known peripherally- mostly through email – for years (and some I’ve met and know personally as well).

All that to say there’s a bit of a debate going on about CPAC and who should or shouldn’t be attending. I’ll let you fill yourself in here. And here.

All that said I don’t feel "unwelcome". This is a struggle that goes on in every party. Don’t believe me? Check out the Democrats – especially in the South. They’re going through some major problems as many Democrats at a state level are switching parties in the wake of the November drubbing. The complaint? The Democratic party (national) has become too liberal and doesn’t reflect the values of the more conservative among them. Zell Miller, who made it clear he felt that way, was apparently only in the vanguard of the movement away from liberal Democrats. And those Blue Dogs left in Congress, now that they’re not needed by the majority, have all but been cut off from the Congressional Democratic leadership. They’re simply too conservative for the Pelosi crowd.

Anyway, this week should be interesting. CPAC is undergoing a bit of a controversy concerning the group GOProud being allowed at the table (it’s a gay Conservative group – well according to fiscal cons, social cons don’t buy that because of GOProud’s stance on gay marriage) and a new controversy which claims that the board of ACU, which puts on CPAC, has been infiltrated by Muslims.

And then there are the usual controversies.

*Sigh*

Like I say, should be interesting. As the old saying goes, may the dragon you find be well fed.

~McQ

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