Paul Ryan is obviously being groomed as a wunderkind; it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that he’s suddenly a presidential candidate. (Why not? Many would breathe a sigh of relief comparing him to Palin, Bachmann, Romney, Gingrich, and God help us, Donald Trump.) What he isn’t is bold and novel.
Yes, he talks about cutting entitlements, which the conventional wisdom says politicians don’t do. But the CW has a short attention span. Entitlements were sacred to the Republicans in 2009 only because seniors’ confusion was a stick to beat Obama with. Republican candidates didn’t bother to correct Tea Partiers screaming that Medicare wasn’t a government program; their anger was useful.
But George Bush pushed Social Security “privatization” for years. Grover Norquist has made no secret of his “starve the beast” tactics: always lower taxes, and use that as leverage to cut spending. Back in the ’90s Dick Armey called for the elimination of Medicare. As Ronald Brownstein points out, this is the fifth time Republicans have followed an election victory with an attempt to gut Medicare or Social Security. All four of the previous attempts led to massive Democratic gains in the next election.
If Ryan were serious about deficit reduction, he wouldn’t start by massively increasing the deficit. This too is Bush redux: Bush justified his tax cuts with Heritage Foundation projections that they’d cause a huge economic boom. How’d that turn out? Hint: a huge recession, 10% unemployment, destruction of two major industries, bank bailouts, a ballooning deficit.
Also, does anyone seriously really believe that the Republicans actually want to reduce the deficit– i.e. to have a surplus? When Clinton left them one, they were all over themselves rushing to destroy it. If it actually happened they’d use it as an excuse to cut taxes more.
Ryan’s plan should be taken as a declaration of values. How much does the Republican Party value huge tax giveaways to the rich? Enough to destroy Medicare/Medicaid. That’s the bargain: take away your old age health plan and give the money to people who don’t need it. This is what they’ve been about for years; Ryan is just putting the numbers on it. If you think the problem with the country is that old people have insurance and rich people are suffering, by all means vote for them.