Rand Paul's SOTU response: The day of fiscal reckoning is here

Good stuff, albeit understandably similar to Ryan’s speech last night, right down to the setting and studiously soft-spoken delivery. Even so, I want to promote it as a way of patting him on the back for floating his proposal for $500 billion in cuts this year. That plan is dead on arrival, needless to say, but passing it isn’t what Paul is after. What he’s trying to do with that eyepopping number is communicate the magnitude of the problem to the public in hopes of moving the Overton window on spending — because if this new Gallup poll is right, it’s going to need a lot of moving. And not just among Democrats, either:

Not a single point’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats on Social Security despite fiscal responsibility having rocketed to the top of the conservative policy agenda over the past two years. I don’t know how else to account for that except as a near-catastrophic failure by prominent Republicans to explain even to their own base that eliminating earmarks and cutting NPR’s funding and canceling a pie-in-the-sky defense project or two isn’t remotely equal to the task of guaranteeing sustainability. Case in point: Not only didn’t Ryan squarely address Social Security and Medicare last night (“the politics of evasion,” Ross Douthat calls it) but even a fearless deficit hawk like Paul, speaking only to an online audience, didn’t go after them here. Anyone who’s serious about balancing the budget long-term must support entitlement reform, no matter how unpleasant the prospect might be, but rarely does the public hear that point made by a prominent politician. And the entirely predictable tragedy of last night’s SOTU, as Tom Coburn argued in his op-ed this morning, is that only leadership from the most prominent politician of all is realistically capable of moving public opinion on this — yet that leadership was almost entirely absent last night. Writes Yuval Levin of the missed opportunity, “This speech was worse than bland and empty, it was a dereliction of duty.” And here’s Matt Welch:

[T]he president, though he is much more serious on this issue than a huge swath of his political party, is nonetheless not remotely serious about this issue. Vowing to cut $400 billion over 10 years (a plan that, judging by the two people clapping when he proposed it, will likely be cut to ribbons if it survives through Congress), at a moment when the deficit for this year is more than three times that, indicates that Democrats (and a helluva lot of Republicans as well) are hunkering down in our awful status quo–half-heartedly tinkering around the edges of spending, making incremental changes this way and that, then launching new moonshots and redoubling old impotent efforts. Politicians have put us on the precipice of financial ruin, and they show no indication of doing a damned thing about it.

And I think they know it. Look at the plaintive, semi-desperate, Stuart Smalleyesque mantra Obama kept repeating at the end: “We do big things.” By his insistence his anxiety shall be revealed. We don’t do big things, America, not in the moonshotty Marshall Plan way of speechwriters’ cliche box. Increasingly, we don’t do little things, either–like keeping libraries open five days a week in California. What we do is snarf up ever-larger portions of your grandkids’ money for purposes that are usually obscure and often criminal.

Read his whole post, including and especially the concluding line. Just as I’m writing this, and as a prelude to Paul’s video, the AP is across the wires with news from CBO that its projections for Social Security were wrong: They used to believe that the program wouldn’t start running permanent deficits until 2016, but it turns out the deficits will begin this year. (We’ll likely have a separate post on that later.) Like Paul says, the day of reckoning is at hand.