House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is at it again, producing one of those antiquated "budget" documents that seem so painfully square to hip, swinging, money-no-object, deficit-reduction-means-tax-increases Democrats. Washington stopped producing anything resembling the conventionally understood accounting instrument of "budgets" many years ago (you know, the green-eyeshade stuff where assets equal liabilities, and income more or less covers expenses) but even the silly deficit-riddled fictions of the Clinton and Bush eras went out of style in 2009. For four years and counting, Washington has been run with "continuing resolutions," which are basically expressions of the federal government's continuing resolve to spend huge piles of money it doesn't actually have.
Ryan's last pass at a budget brought Uncle Sam's expenses into line with his income over the course of 25 years, an act of fiscal discipline that caused the D.C. establishment to recoil with the kind of horror not seen since they were clamoring for stockpiles of Cipro to protect them from anthrax attacks. Undaunted, Ryan got even more serious and produced a new budget this year, which balances in only ten years.
It does this, in part, by defunding the black hole of ObamaCare, once laughably portrayed as a source of deficit reduction (remember that? Real knee-slapper, wasn't it?) But now even the famously cautious Congressional Budget Office speaks of trillion-dollar ObamaCare deficits. You know how all those Republican governors - Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott of Florida, to name two recent examples - are agreeing to radical Medicaid expansion because the federal government promises to pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three years, then cover 90 percent in perpetuity? All those billions have to come from somewhere, sooner or later.
It's the "sooner or later" part that makes the magic of deficit-fueled government expansion possible. By the time the sucker-citizens realize how badly they've been indentured... and the Sainted Middle Class is mournfully informed that the hour for their massive economy-crushing tax hike has come... there will be so many voters hooked on the stream of "free" federal money that no one can ever hope to shut the bankrupt system down. It's called "progressivism," political power derived from cascading bankruptcy, and it's pretty much the anti-thesis of rational republican self-government. Mistakes are irrevocable, the contraction of the private sector is inevitable, and no refunds are given when progressive programs implode. One man, one vote, one time, as they say in the more advanced progressive utopias.
So here we have Paul Ryan politely pointing out that if we want to balance the budget, we should ditch the incredibly expensive failure of ObamaCare, which is jacking health care premiums through the roof - an average increase of 30 to 40 percent in the individual market, when the President looked America in the eye and promised his scheme would reduce premiums by $2500 per year - as well as placing massive new obligations on our bankrupt central government. It's hideously expensive, and it's not working, so let's try something different before the "progressives" insist we no longer have that freedom.
"Our budget does promote repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a better system," said Ryan on Fox News Sunday, encompassing both Medicaid and ObamaCare when adding that he was interested in "preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing."
And he's got support for that idea in the Senate, with a small but growing group of Republican senators expressing determination to defund ObamaCare: Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah at first, later joined by Marco Rubio of Florida, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Rubio, a rising star with one eye on the 2016 presidential election, said he's just about had enough of funding the government through "continuing resolutions"... but he'll consider supporting one more, if it shuts down ObamaCare.
Now, the math of the Senate and White House is clear for anyone to see. Paul Ryan's not going to get a budget cleansed of ObamaCare barnacles past the Senate; Marco Rubio will not be able to bully the Democrat caucus into zeroing this disaster out, in exchange for one more temporary reprieve from the horrors of budgeting. Ryan has proposed reduced or eliminated funding for various appendages of ObamaCare in previous budgets, but it didn't go anywhere. And on the off chance either of them pulled off a political miracle, Barack Obama would never sign onto it.
But the drive to defend ObamaCare is not an exercise in futility. For starters, it's the right thing to do, and it is appropriate for the Republicans to insist on it. What chance do they have to bring Americans around to their way of thinking, if they insist on compromising with ruin, because they need another half-dozen Senators to help them find their convictions? Sometimes there is value in choosing political values carefully, but refusing to engage in any doomed vote until reinforcements arrive via ballot box is a formula for dejected submission. That doesn't make voters eager to put more Republicans in Congress; it makes them wonder why they bothered voting for the ones who are already sitting there.
It is also appropriate for congressional Republicans to keep Democrats on the defensive when it comes to ObamaCare. Don't meekly accept the program as an immutable fact of life, an argument Americans lost forever in 2009; make the Democrats defend it, over and over again, even as they wail about the unbearable agony of sequestration "cuts" that stack up to five percent of ObamaCare's budget bloat. Make the Democrats explain to the American people why they can't have air-traffic controllers, meat inspectors, or firemen, but they have to spent twenty times as much to fund a health-care boondoggle they hate. Help the public understand why there is no reason to take any ObamaCare supporter seriously on the topic of "deficit reduction." The political price paid by Democrats for ramming ObamaCare down our throats in 2010 was a tiny down payment on the price that should be extracted from them forever. It was a horrible mistake to refrain from collecting another big installment in the 2012 election, and that's something Rep. Ryan's running mate needs to answer for.
And look: the American public does still hate ObamaCare, but they can also be beaten into submission with the weaponized despair peddled by Democrats and their media allies. They can be pushed into agreeing that O-care might stink on ice, but we're stuck with it forever now. They can be spooked away from considering market-based alternatives, because they don't like insurance companies, and medicine is scary.
The Republicans must take concrete steps - including dauntless demands for high-profile votes they can't win - to remind Americans that resistance is still viable. Some excellent cases were made against ObamaCare in 2009; those cases should be made again, with renewed vigor, added by years of concrete evidence that President Obama's plan has been living down to its criticism. Replacing this nightmare with an affordable, sustainable system that works is something people can vote for in 2014. Make the Democrats explain why a supposedly free nation is no longer allowed to vote on such things.