Today you are going to hear a lot about Paul Ryan and his budget deal. He has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal previewing it. You can read that here.
The budget proposal is a solid proposal of solid reform. I like what I see. But I also foresee real problems with it as a result.
Let me first say the number you are going to hear batted about today is that Paul Ryan‘s budget cuts $6.2 trillion. Please keep in mind that following that number is this language: “from the president’s budget over the next 10 years.” That is different from actually cutting $6.2 trillion. These are cuts placed in juxtaposition to the President’s proposed cuts. We will find out later today what the real cuts are.
Before continuing, let me also say that I am annoyed with a lot of conservatives today. Over the past 24 hours, many conservatives have raced to the nearest TV show, blog, and opinion page to praise Paul Ryan as if he is some sort of savior. There are calls for Ryan to run for President. One pundit called his budget plan “the most important domestic proposal of our lifetimes” and “the first concerted, credible effort to shrink the federal government since the birth of the welfare state seven decades ago.”
I get tired of the left investing in the cult of personality with Barack Obama, but sadly the right is not immune. Many conservatives desperate for the second coming of Reagan and Jesus have poured out their hopes, dreams, and ambitions into Paul Ryan as if he is some sort of empty vessel to be filled with the desires of conservatives.
Paul Ryan is a very decent guy, but he is just a man. He supported No Child Left Behind, the medicare prescription drug benefit, TARP, the auto bailout, the arguably unconstitutional AIG bonus tax, and capping CEO pay among other things. He is not infallible. Please, conservatives, try not to sound too enraptured.
Paul Ryan is, bar none, the best and most articulate Republican when it comes to talking budget, numbers, and reform. But that does not equate with infallibility and being a strategic mastermind.
That said, Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is really good. Again though, that it is a good plan is also its significant downfall. Let me tell you why.
Paul Ryan’s plan defunds Obamacare, reforms medicare and medicaid, restructures the budget process, simplifies the tax code, and balances the budget in 26 years.
In those 26 years, Congresses and Presidents not bound by Paul Ryan’s vision may or may not adhere to Paul Ryan’s vision.
In those 26 years, the American Republic will still add to the deficit each year.
In those 26 years, calculations can and will change, the economy can and will change, and the projections for a balanced budget after 26 years may or may not continue.
Worse, Paul Ryan’s budget balances in 26 years if and only if the Democrats agree to it. That will never happen. In other words, in the best case scenario Paul Ryan has proposed a budget that may or may not balance in 26 years. That is important not just because Democrats must go along with it, but also because the people projecting all the savings must be right. In the history of our grand Republic, those prognosticators are typically more wrong than right.
So don’t actually believe the budget will balance in 26 years. History is against that. The Democrats are against it too.
Ryan started out with a plan that we can and should all praise. But it is a plan with which we should end up after negotiations with Democrats, not with which we should begin negotiations with Democrats who will only drive up the number of years in which we balance the budget, drive up spending, and drive down overall budget cuts. At least, and thank God for this, the budget plan scraps the subsidization of green jobs by the government.
There is one additional and major caveat to Paul Ryan’s plan we must be aware of. The plan does, praise Paul Ryan, defund Obamacare. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the Obama health care law would be repealed, which the plan says will save $1.5 trillion, according to documents distributed to some aides on Capitol Hill.”
If the plan “cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt,” to quote Congressman Ryan, then $1.5 trillion of the cuts come from Obamacare.
Is the Congressman prepared to fight to the death, or at least the shutdown, to defund Obamacare, on which $1.5 trillion of his $6.2 trillion in cuts is premised? Tea Party activists will expect him to. But will he? And will he lead the GOP into that fight? Because to obtain those cuts and obtain defunding of Obamacare, we are going to have to draw a line in the sand and shut down the government. Obama will not otherwise concede to it.
The Ryan “Path to Prosperity” is a good plan. But it is, again, the plan we should end up with after negotiations, not the plan we should start with for negotiations. It will be moved left by virtue of the necessary compromises with Democrats to get it enacted into law. What those compromises are will determine conservatives’ ultimate support.
In the meantime, I hope a few members of the Budget Committee might force the Republicans to up the ante on cuts and savings and start the GOP off from a position further right as the inevitable compromise to the left begins.