The Ryan budget isn’t perfect. The better criticism of it, though, is that it doesn’t go far enough on entitlements. Although Ryan has endorsed reforms to restrain the growth of Social Security, the budget he got House Republicans to support does not include those reforms. Too large a share of the budget restraint therefore comes from domestic programs other than entitlements. This isn’t, unfortunately, a criticism that the Democrats have any interest or credibility in making.

Beneath Messina’s distortions lies a real and important debate. Is our welfare state basically healthy, just in need of a few tweaks to restore its fiscal health? Democrats believe, or claim to believe, that if we just raised taxes on the rich and let experts redirect Medicare spending, we could keep the open- ended entitlement programs on which we have come to rely.

Republicans, on the other hand, tend to think that our entitlement programs are structurally flawed in a way that neither tax increases nor better management can solve. Republicans do not want to abolish these entitlements. Their view is that they should be limited, and made to work with rather than against markets.