“The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Ryan is expected to leap into the vacuum left by the president’s passivity. The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.
“His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race…
“Paul Ryan has grasped reality with both hands. He’s forcing everybody else to do the same.”
“When he introduced his Roadmap in early 2008, with proposals anticipating much of what’s in this week’s budget, he had only seven co-sponsors, and most Republicans of his fellow seemed desperate to pretend that it didn’t exist at all. And even the most socialist-sympathizing, Paul Wellstone-idolizing, single-payer-dreaming left-winger should be able to draw a kind of inspiration from the doggedness and discipline with which Ryan pushed his ideas from the margins of the party to the mainstream. This is how we should want all our legislators to approach the people’s business, whether they’re liberal or conservative or somewhere in between — putting what they consider good policy above what everyone else in their party considers good politics. Too few of them do. But for the ones who try to make real substance their touchstone, rather than just partisan advantage, today should be a hopeful day.
Credit also goes to John Boehner, who in many respects is the anti-Paul Ryan. He’s the least wonky figure imaginable —a politician’s politician, the quintessential backroom dealmaker, the man who creates a smoke-filled room wherever he goes. He is the kind of party leader who one would expect to throw up every obstacle imaginable to a document like this budget — a document that may have no political upside, a document that’s wonk-approved rather than poll-tested, and a document that’s essentially a repudiation of the kind of ‘Mediscare’ tactics that played a not-insignificant role in making Boehner Speaker of the House in the first place. Instead, he essentially gave Ryan a free hand in the budget process, and agreed to put the weight of his office behind the results. And he did so, perhaps just as crucially, without any of the self-aggrandizement and histrionics that defined the G.O.P. leadership under Newt Gingrich, the last time these kind of issues were on the table…
“Whatever you think of what the House Republicans are proposing, it’s the antithesis of politics as usual.”
“For over a year, the White House has been laying a trap, attempting to force Republicans into embracing entitlement reforms so that President Obama and Democrats would have a giant target to attack. But with the release of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget today, that strategy could backfire…
“[W]hether you agree or disagree with his approach, it’s clear that Ryan’s budget is a serious deficit-reduction plan that grapples with the problem. If Obama responds to Ryan with his own deficit reduction plan that confronts entitlements, his liberal base will go apoplectic. Yet if he doesn’t offer anything, then all his talk about being the kind of president who would set politics aside to deal with the nation’s challenges looks even more empty than it already does.
“In 2012, as Obama is up for reelection, the federal deficit is slated to be $1.1 trillion, according to the White House’s own estimates. If he is opposing Ryan’s budget, but not offering any serious counter-proposal of his own, he’ll have his work cut out for him. And this time, it’ll be hard to skate by simply by blaming George W. Bush.”
“The risk is that Paul Ryan has created a plan only Paul Ryan can sell with his passion and deep expertise. He does make political concessions. The plan doesn’t, for instance, cut Medicare spending on current retirees or older workers. But austerity of that sort probably isn’t needed yet. Current trends, though, are leading toward a fiscal crisis that would result in both extreme and immediate benefit cuts and higher taxes.
“And that, ultimately, is how the political case is made. The alternative to the Ryan Path isn’t the fiscally unsustainable status quo, but a future of harsh austerity beset by financial crisis, stifled by higher interest rates and marred by a lower standard of living. In short, the death of the American Dream and the collapse of any social safety net.
“But there is a way forward to another American Century and away from that nightmare. And Ryan has found it.”
“Today, we are here to give Americans the debate they deserve.”