Ryan’s budget plan “brave, radical, and smart,” says … Jacob Weisberg?

posted at 2:15 pm on April 6, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Let’s face it: we all expected liberals and Democrats to call Paul Ryan’s new budget proposal “radical.”  We just didn’t expect it to be a compliment.  Not only does the reliably liberal columnist unexpectedly praise Ryan’s long-term budget plans, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote last night that it gives the Republican Party the banner of intellectualism.

Yes, he means that as a compliment, too:

The Wisconsin Republican’s genuinely radical plan goes where Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich never did by terminating the entitlement status of Medicare and Medicaid. (It doesn’t touch the third major entitlement, Social Security, though Ryan has elsewhere argued for extending its life by gradually raising the retirement age to 70.) Ryan changes Medicare into a voucher, which would be used to purchase private health insurance. He turns Medicaid into a block grant for states to spend as they choose. Though his budget committee isn’t responsible for taxes, Ryan includes the boldest tax reform proposal since the 1980s, proposing to lower top individual and corporate rates to 25 percent and end deductions. While he’s at it, Ryan caps domestic spending, repeals Obamacare, slashes farm subsidies, and more.

If the GOP gets behind his proposals in a serious way, it will become for the first time in modern memory an intellectually serious party—one with a coherent vision to match its rhetoric of limited government. Democrats are within their rights to point out the negative effects of Ryan’s proposed cuts on future retirees, working families, and the poor. He was not specific about many of his cuts, and Democrats have a political opportunity in filling in the blanks. But the ball is now in their court, and it will be hard to take them seriously if they don’t respond with their own alternative path to debt reduction and long-term solvency.

His continuing Bushisms aside, I like reading Weisberg, but I’m under no illusions about his policy preferences.  He’s normally a fair partisan, but he is a partisan, so when I read this much praise for a “radical” Republican reform effort from Weisberg, I’m wondering where the catch is.  And here it is:

And before they reject everything in Ryan’s plan, liberals might want to consider whether some of what he proposes doesn’t in fact serve their own ultimate goals. Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher provides an easy political target. But it’s hard to make a principled liberal case for the program in its current form. To do so, you have to argue that government-paid health care should be a right only for people over the age of 65, and for no one else. Medicare covers doctor and hospital bills at 100 percent, regardless of income. This gives doctors and patients an incentive to maximize their use of the system and waste public resources. Choosing to pay 100 percent of Warren Buffett’s medical bills while cutting Head Start reflects a strange set of social priorities, to say the least. …

Effectively constraining the growth of Medicare could make it possible for Democrats to do a lot else that’s important to them in the future. In 2010, Medicare spending was $519 billion, as compared with $666 billion for all nondefense domestic discretionary spending. Growing at more than 7 percent a year, Medicare is projected to eventually consume nearly all federal tax revenues. It is crowding out everything else that Washington does or might want to do. Conversely, cutting Medicare’s growth rate to near the overall rate of the economy would do more than anything else to enable the kind of activist government liberals support—investment in kids, education, jobs, and infrastructure. Ryan’s goal isn’t to empower the federal government. But if your goal is a more interventionist public sector, you might find yourself on Ryan’s side of the Medicare debate.

In other words, Weisberg likes Ryan’s proposal not because it means that government will spend less, but because it means that government will have more money to spend elsewhere.  I’m tempted to leave that assumption alone if it means that progressives get behind Ryan’s plan.  Why quibble, after all?

Of course, it won’t work that way in practice for one reason — Congress won’t have the political support to create massive deficits in discretionary spending.  The only reason that we’ve arrived at the debt and spending levels we have now is because two-thirds of it occurs on autopilot.  In order to spend in the manner Weisberg suggests, Congress would have to either explicitly spend money we don’t have, or raise taxes to cover it.  Either would be political suicide once entitlement spending was brought under control.

That’s Ryan’s point anyway.  We don’t have the money to write these checks in the first place, and we need to quit pretending that we do.  Even under Ryan’s plan, we will go for several years before we get back to a point where we finally can cover the checks we do write.

Weisberg’s final point is his best.  If Democrats don’t like Ryan’s plan, then they need to come up with one of their own that addresses that reality.  Until they do, they have effectively conceded their position as the party of fiscal and intellectual bankruptcy.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Not bad for what it is, Weisberg.

MikeknaJ on April 6, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Paul Ryan has put BHO and Dems in a box…

d1carter on April 6, 2011 at 2:22 PM

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2058044_2060338_2060227,00.html

Paul Ryan Time most influential… Vote

reshas1 on April 6, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Ryan takes center stage and the Eunuch in Chief leaves town.

Leadership!

Politico is having an orgy.

Suffocate from what you dwell in, old media.

Schadenfreude on April 6, 2011 at 2:25 PM

I’m still pessimistic.
People suck and they are stupid.
So BO will probably win the day bcs of this.
However, I do hope I am wrong.

Badger40 on April 6, 2011 at 2:26 PM

“Until they do, they have effectively conceded their position as the party of fiscal and intellectual bankruptcy.”

I guess you haven’t been listening to Nancy Pelosi nor Debbie Wasserman-Schultz over the last two days…

/

Seven Percent Solution on April 6, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Weisberg’s final point is his best. If Democrats don’t like Ryan’s plan, then they need to come up with one of their own that addresses that reality. Until they do, they have effectively conceded their position as the party of fiscal and intellectual bankruptcy.

Which is the problem the Dems are facing. Assuming(and it’s a big ASSumption) that the rest of the GOP doesn’t abandon Ryan’s plan, the Democrats won’t be able to stifle debate through demagoguing. It worked in 2005 when Bush tried to reform Social Security, but that was easier as the economy was better, the deficit wasn’t at the mammoth level it’s at now, and Bush was targeting a single program, that being the so-called third rail of politics.

This time they’ll have to come up with a realistic alternative to Ryan’s. And even the most hardcore of leftists(save for Michael Moore and the folks at MSDNC) know mere tax increases on “the rich” won’t close the deficits we’re running.

Doughboy on April 6, 2011 at 2:28 PM

So is he for Seniors eating Fancy Feast or not? I am so confused.

txmomof6 on April 6, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Weisberg’s final point is his best. If Democrats don’t like Ryan’s plan, then they need to come up with one of their own that addresses that reality. Until they do, they have effectively conceded their position as the party of fiscal and intellectual bankruptcy.

Obama left town, pronto.

Schadenfreude on April 6, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Maybe it’s time to put Ryan back on the Hot Air presidential poll? The guy is filling a leadership vacuum and may have no choice but to run.

cpaulus on April 6, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Any proposals from the right that call for future cuts are fine with Democrats because they realize that the Republicans only have control of what is spent NOW. The premise of saving trillions over the course of ten years, or whatever, is useful only so far as you might be able to say “continue to vote for Republicans or it’s all for naught”, but it’s meaningless in real terms. One Democrat House can reverse it all and spend trillions more in a blink of an eye.

Ultimately, the only way a Republican House can be effective is to destroy as much socialist infrastructure as possible as quickly as possible. Once a ponzi scheme is shut down, it’s hard to start it up again.

Buddahpundit on April 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM

How come the democrat senators won’t pass the budget to find out what’s in it?

withmanitisimpossible on April 6, 2011 at 2:40 PM

So is he for Seniors eating Fancy Feast or not? I am so confused.

txmomof6 on April 6, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Jacob Weisberg’s credibility will go into the tank if he doesn’t remind everyone that seniors and children will starve to death with Ryan’s plan. Is the old Democratic playbook finally outdated?

Rovin on April 6, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Of course, it won’t work that way in practice for one reason — Congress won’t have the political support to create massive deficits in discretionary spending.

You seem to have more confidence in the rationality of the electorate than I do, Ed. There’s always another voting demographic to bribe using taxpayer money.

Hollowpoint on April 6, 2011 at 2:54 PM

You seem to have more confidence in the rationality of the electorate than I do, Ed. There’s always another voting demographic to bribe using taxpayer money.

Hollowpoint on April 6, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Ya think?

Rovin on April 6, 2011 at 2:58 PM

but the dems have their talking points….children and seniors will starve, can’t deviate…that’s just not acceptable…

cmsinaz on April 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Ryan is one of the GOP’s best assets. It will be interesting to see which of the 2012 contenders embrace his budget plan.

dedalus on April 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Doughboy on April 6, 2011 at 2:28 PM

me thinks you are giving them too much credit…it’s their mantra

cmsinaz on April 6, 2011 at 3:10 PM

reshas1 on April 6, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Cool, Ryan’s running 2-1 in favor.
About 1500 votes, atm.

pambi on April 6, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Ryan is one of the GOP’s best assets. It will be interesting to see which of the 2012 contenders embrace his budget plan.

dedalus on April 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Palin already has.

portlandon on April 6, 2011 at 3:14 PM

You want everybody to act like adult, quit playing games and realize it is not my way or the highway,” President Obama said in Pennsylvania before he is set to hold a fundraiser tonight.

pot.kettle.

cmsinaz on April 6, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Weisberg’s among those on the left who have become more and more annoyed at Obama’s wimpiness, never mind the fact that if he was Mr. In-Your-Face Alpha-Male from the get-go, his presidential campaign would have died 15 seconds after it started. But praising Ryan’s boldness is a passive-agressive way by Jacob to try and get Obama and the Senate Dems to be more aggressive in proposing their own budget plans.

jon1979 on April 6, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Obama left town, pronto.

Schadenfreude on April 6, 2011 at 2:33 PM

but then, isn’t this what he does best? every time the going gets tough or when there’s a crisis of sorts, he’s all packed and ready do go…and then, poof, gone! if he could only go for good…he’s useless anyways…

jimver on April 6, 2011 at 3:19 PM

I’m not sure about all the talk about Ryan for Prez already. Seems like when one person gets one thing right, suddenly they are the perfect leader par excellence. I totally agree he has an incredible mind for economics and he has more balls than most men in the GOP. But how is he on any other issues? Would he not be better as a Secretaty of Treasury, or as I’d prefer, VP? Don’t get me wrong, I’d do a happy dance if he were elected to the WH, just find it a little misguided to see any sort of expertise as meaning the person will be a great executive. There are specific skills one need to be the one in charge – not sure why people don’t judge on those qualities rather than anyone being good at ANYTHING?

miConsevative on April 6, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Leftists are hilarious. This is what Weisberg says in his second paragraph:

“Democrats have been more fiscally responsible, producing an actual budget surplus during Bill Clinton’s second term.”

That’s right. Nevermind the hilarity of the first part, it was a tech-booming economy under a republican congress that produced the budget surplus. Clinton had the political savvy and ideological restraint to get out of the way.

rrpjr on April 6, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Buddahpundit on April 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Good point.

angryed on April 6, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Another thing we have to consider with Ryan’s plan is that it will stop inflation in its tracks. The Federal Reserve is now one of the principal drivers of inflation through their out-of-control printing of money to buy our own debt. If foreign governments see that we are restoring sanity to the federal budget, they will be much more willing to buy our debt. That also means we will not have to jack the interest rate to provide incentive for them to buy.

slickwillie2001 on April 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Where’s the part where the rich people make a tiny sacrifice and pay a little bit more income taxes I can’t seem to find it in there.

Dave Rywall on April 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM

“If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”

Link to that story here..

This is why we’re in this situation, because he’s so arrogant. Ryan has got the answer, but he thinks he’s better than Ryan. So what does he do? Leaves town scared!!!

cappy718 on April 6, 2011 at 4:08 PM

I have liked Ryan since I first heard him about 2 or so years ago. He is a very smart man, and most importantly, he understands economics.

jeffn21 on April 6, 2011 at 4:17 PM

I think the term “balanced budget” is important and should not be allowed to disappear from the lexicon. How long does a given plan take to balance the budget, and what is a realistic time frame to achieve a balanced budget? Those are the questions I hope people start discussing. I think 40 years is a ridiculous amount of time to “balance a budget”. That is at least a generation of people growing up without any comprehension that a government’s budget should be balanced. If you can go 40 years without a balanced budget, why balance the budget ever? We’ll just invent a new system of economics, (nah, I’m just kidding, we already have names for it.)

Let’s not throw the term “balanced budget” into the dustbin of history just yet.

FloatingRock on April 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Choosing to pay 100 percent of Warren Buffett’s medical bills while cutting Head Start reflects a strange set of social priorities, to say the least. …

It’s been proven that Head Start is a waste of time and money. I don’t want to judge Warren Buffet’s value, however.

disa on April 6, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Where’s the part where the rich people make a tiny sacrifice and pay a little bit more income taxes I can’t seem to find it in there.

Dave Rywall on April 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM

So you admit you do not want a workable system. Instead you want a system that punishes the competent. This does not surprise me.

Slowburn on April 6, 2011 at 5:49 PM

I’d like to see more of him and his idea’s. At least someone has the guts to lay if out for everyone to see.
I’m not impressed with the current Speaker, can we get another vote on who will lead the GOP??

mmcnamer1 on April 6, 2011 at 7:25 PM

So you admit you do not want a workable system. Instead you want a system that punishes the competent. This does not surprise me.

Slowburn on April 6, 2011 at 5:49 PM
——–

Yeah, because the people earning between 500 grand and 2 million are creating so many fu*king jobs! You cannot possibly tax them more! Without their frequent job creation by creating jobs – because that’s what the rich do (create jobs) – the country would collapse !

Dave Rywall on April 6, 2011 at 9:44 PM

I must take issue with the following statement by Weisburg:

“Medicare covers doctor and hospital bills at 100 percent, regardless of income.”

Medicare DOES NOT cover doctor and hospital bills at 100%. Typically Medicare tends to cover approximately 62% of a recipient’s expenses.

In 2010 Medicare Part A covered Hospital expenses…with a deductible of $1,132.00 per incident within 60 days. If you were on Medicare and had another hospitalization “incident” 90 days out, you would be responsible for an additional deductible of $1,132.00. Potentially a Medicare enrollee could be responsible for thousands of dollars in additional hospital expenses if each hospitalization was a different medical “incident”. Seniors are automatically enrolled in Part A. Part B covers doctor expenses and cost (in 2010) $115.00 per month for enrollees who enrolled in 2010. It was slightly lower for those who enrolled in prior years. Then there was a deductible of $162.00 before Medicare kicked in with 80/20 coverage. Of course, you have to go to doctors who actually take Medicare, and since Medicare DOES NOT even covers the doctor’s expense of the recipient’s visit, which is why so many doctors are choosing to opt out of Medicare.

ElvenPhoenix on April 6, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Yeah, because the people earning between 500 grand and 2 million are creating so many fu*king jobs! You cannot possibly tax them more! Without their frequent job creation by creating jobs – because that’s what the rich do (create jobs) – the country would collapse !

Dave Rywall on April 6, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Creating jobs is what the rich do, either directly by hiring people to work for them, either directly or through businesses they run, or through the economic stimulation of spending their own money, which is far more efficient at job creation than government spending.

Tax rates higher 25% do not increase tax revenues.(19% appears to be optimal.) Instead the money is stuck into tax shelters that do not provide jobs for the local/national economy.

Slowburn on April 7, 2011 at 3:29 AM