Instead, both authors advocate smaller, topical, tactical reforms, that will set the stage for real reform later. Capretta writes: “The GOP needs to articulate real entitlement reforms, advance them in the legislative process, and stand behind them for the next two years. That should mean, for one, advancing reforms to Medicare that fall short of premium support but nonetheless represent real progress toward advancing consumer incentives in the program. On Medicaid, the GOP could work with the nation’s 30 Republican governors to push for reforms that give the federal government more budgetary predictability and the states far more control over the program.”

Levin echoes: “Their task now is to use the broader vision laid out in the Ryan budget as a standard by which to distinguish good from bad incremental steps, and so to propose discrete, politically plausible reforms that not only reduce spending but lay the groundwork for the sorts of larger reforms they believe are needed in the long run. Many potential spending cuts—including many entitlement cuts, like the provider cuts in Medicare favored by some Democrats—would not meet this test, and should not be pursued. Those that do meet it would need to involve changes in the character of the entitlement system.”