“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Paul Ryan: Canary In The Coal Mine?

The lead staff editorial in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago was entitled Washington vs. Paul Ryan. Very apropos.

The occasion of the piece was liberal economist Paul Krugman's calling Ryan "the flim-flam man" in his New York Times column of the prior week.

Krugman further alleged that Ryan's "roadmap" to fiscal responsibility was,

"a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America's fiscal future."

For the sin of acknowledging that Medicare is, as presently run, insolvent, and should be replaced by a voucher for purchase of insurance to provide the same services, Ryan is being crucified by Democrats, and ignored by many of his own Republican colleagues.

As with so many contemporary issues in Washington, this is one having many facets: macroeconomic, deficit, government control, and the loss of individual liberty, to name just a few.

The Journal editorial put it this way,

"In that sense, Mr. Ryan is really presenting Washington with a philosophical choice between ever-more indebted government and a plan to pay for the promises we've made while still preserving free markets and economic growth. The firehose of invective pointed at Mr. Ryan is in part an effort to scare voters and in part an effort to prevent voters from understanding that there is in fact a choice."

Ironic, in that virtually every non-partisan pundit you see on, say, CNBC, endorses Congress taking meaningful steps to address Medicare and other out of control spending. Yet, when Ryan offers realistic approaches to doing so, members of both parties react in predictably, unproductive partisan manners.

Democrats paint Ryan as a demon who is trying to destroy Medicare and old-age benefits, while members of his own party try to distance themselves from his comprehensive views and proposals for many needed government budget excesses.

Ryan doesn't confine himself to the usual 'waste cutting' solutions, but goes after the big stuff. As the quoted editorial passage notes, the real gut issues of who controls choice, how spending is done, and how services are provided.

I've argued in a prior post regarding ObamaCare that it is based on three horribly-flawed program designs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All feature general pots of taxpayer funds out of which individuals are paid on a sort of first-come, first-served basis. Individualized accounts would have been a far more rational approach.

Unfortunately, our federal government is too-often run by people, both elected and civil service, who weren't the brightest candles on the cake, so to speak. Thus, these social welfare programs were designed and run under unrealistic assumptions of ever-increasing tax revenues and voter appetite for social spending. Not to mention ever-increasing appetites of global investors for US debt obligations.

None of these turned out to be true for as long as these programs have to run.

Whether you like Ryan's proposals or not, he deserves credit for saying what he thinks is right for the country, despite his own party members' attempt to acknowledge this. In a Congress dominated by power struggles between the parties, rather than either one focusing on lasting, sustainable solutions for serious problems involving federal deficits, spending, taxes and personal liberties, Ryan stands out as someone who is willing to take positions on issues his colleagues would prefer to ignore.

He deserves much better than Krugman's attacks. But, then, that's all Krugman seems to understand how to do.

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