Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal (PDF. here) has hit with the impact of a rather large nuclear weapon, at least if you judge the impact of such things on the basis of the reaction of the liberal side of the blogosphere. In that realm the the numbers Ryan presents are fanciful and the affects of his proposed policies immoral.
Well, it’s not the end of life as we know it, nor is it likely to be the budgetary regime of our future. It is, however, a game changer as it delineates an approach to fiscal management at odds with the status quo. The Democrats cannot continue to criticize the Republicans for failing to advance an alternative to ObamaCare, spending and taxation. There is now one in front of them and it couldn’t be more at odds with Progressive philosophy.
Of course, I do not have any idea what might be Ryan’s strategy. I do doubt that his budget proposal with its sweeping changes is a take it or leave it proposition, but I don’t know at what point his various proposals become non-negotiable. Like others, I suspect that the middle ground lies somewhere in the vicinity of the suggestions that came out of the Fiscal Commission.
You might remember that group managed against all expectations to garner a majority vote in favor of its proposals. Eleven of the eighteen members voted aye and they included an unlikely coalition of liberal Democratic and conservative Republican Senators. Yes Ryan did vote no, but that vote was mostly predicated on the fact that the commission dodged health care reform.
To say that the Ryan Budget and the Simpson-Bowles programs are similar would be over-stating the case, but you can see in this chart from James Pethokoukis that there convergence might not be all that difficult.
For whatever reason, the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission seemed to be anathema to the Obama administration and it buried the report almost before it was published. More to the point, the administration has been completely silent on any sort of fiscal reform, effectively ceding this ground to Ryan and the Republicans. Given that the Ryan plan is in effect his budget proposal for 2012, the calculation might well be to let the Republicans so shock the electorates’ collective sense that they rush into the arms of the Democrats or at least return the President to office for a final four years. A timid approach but probably not bad politics.
Whatever the outcome of Ryan’s gambit, I think that he does deserve a lot of credit for at least putting this debate starkly on the table. I like the general gist but think that he might be reaching too far given the constraints of a modern, complex economy. If the Republican Party sticks with him — that’s a very big if — then they are going to present the American people with a clear governing philosophy which will contrast sharply with the current Progressive regime. Whether Americans who have been conditioned to believe that the government can provide an unending supply of services which are paid for by someone else will sign on is problematic.