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Ryan’s Budget and 2012 : Will entitlement reform be swept under the rug in the 2012 campaign?
National Review ^ | 08/23/2011 | Andrew Stiles

Posted on 08/23/2011 7:09:36 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Even with House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) deciding not to enter the fray for the GOP presidential nomination, his entitlement-reforming budget resolution, approved by the House earlier this year, is almost certain to play a prominent role in the race. Whichever candidate Republicans select will be forced to either defend it against the inevitable onslaught of Democratic “Death to Granny” scare tactics, or put forward a compelling alternative plan of his or her own. If the conservative uproar following Newt Gingrich’s comments on Meet the Press in May — in which he called Ryan’s plan “radical” and an example of “right-wing social engineering” — is any indication, the eventual GOP nominee could find it extremely hard not to embrace the underlying concept of sweeping entitlement reform, although at this point in the race, no candidate seems eager to do so.

So, when it comes to support for the Ryan plan — and the issue of entitlement reform in general — how do the top-tier candidates stack up?

As a sitting member of the House, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) is firmly on record in support of the Ryan plan. She was one of 235 Republicans who voted to approve the House budget in April. That said, Bachmann’s public comments following the budget’s passage haven’t exactly come across as full-throated cheerleading. In May (prior to announcing her candidacy), she told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that she “put an asterisk” on her support for the plan.

“One position that I’m concerned about [is] shifting the cost burden to senior citizens,” Bachmann said. “Seniors are saying, ‘Look, I’m not in a position to be able to handle that.’ I also share that real fear; that’s why I put that asterisk out there.” Bachmann went on to say that she was not “wedded” to the specific Medicare reforms outlined in Ryan’s plan, but stressed the need to find “efficiencies and cost cuttings and savings in health care, but how we get there is open to discussion.”

On her campaign website, Bachmann touts her vote for the House budget, writing: “The Ryan Plan is just the very first step on health reform, and I voted for it with an asterisk with further reforms in mind.” But she has provided few details as to what those “further reforms” might entail.

A number of conservative commentators have raised the question of whether Bachmann’s apparent hedging is at odds with her claims to having a “titanium spine” when it comes to taking strong positions on difficult issues. For example, her firm opposition to raising the debt ceiling was, given the fiscal reality, an implicit endorsement of sweeping entitlement cuts and reforms. Her support for specific proposals that any serious effort at entitlement reform would have to include — raising the retirement age and means-testing benefits, for example — has been vague at best. All told, Bachmann has yet to explicitly (i.e., sans asterisk) embrace a specific plan to accomplish this, or even indicate that she will put forward a plan of her own.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has gone so far as to say he would sign the House budget into law as president. Still, he too has been hesitant when it comes to the specifics. When Ryan unveiled his plan in April, Romney praised the budget chairman for “setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control,” and described himself as “on the same page” with Ryan. In May, Romney announced that he would release his own plan to reform Medicare that would “not be identical, but share objectives” with the Ryan plan, but he offered few details as to when he would unveil said plan. “There’s a lot you’re going to expect from me on Medicare,” he said.

Regarding such expectations, however, Romney raised some eyebrows in April when, as reported by Ben Smith at Politico, he told a group of donors in New York City that he “didn’t know” if significant entitlement reform was even possible, given the inherent political difficulties. And while his support for letting states “experiment” with health-care programs may find favor with some, the approach Romney supported in Massachusetts is undeniably similar to that of Obamacare, and one of Ryan’s stated objectives in drafting his budget was to present a viable alternative to the president’s approach.

In his recent book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney touches on the issue of entitlement spending, offering an array of specific suggestions regarding Social Security and Medicaid, but little when it comes to Medicare, apart from acknowledging the unsustainability of the program in its current form.

Texas governor Rick Perry’s late entry into the race spared him from having to personally weigh in on Ryan’s budget at the time of its release, although he did co-sign, along with several other Republican governors, a letter to Ryan praising his plan as one that “halts the out-of-control spending spree of recent years, and imposes a back-to-basics fiscal discipline that voters clearly asked for in last November’s mid-term elections.”

On the other hand, some have seized on passages in Perry’s book, Fed Up!, published last fall, to suggest that Perry is to the right of Ryan when it comes to entitlement reform. For example, Perry described Social Security as a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal,” which was enacted “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” He has previously suggested that both Social Security and Medicare would be better handled at the state level.

Perry’s campaign has argued that the book should be seen as “a look back, not a path forward,” and in recent weeks Perry has appeared to soften his position on entitlements. “He believes a full review and discussion of entitlement reforms need to be had, aimed at seeing that programs like Social Security and Medicare are fiscally responsible and actuarially sound,” Perry’s communications director, Ray Sullivan, told the Wall Street Journal.

At a recent event in New Hampshire, Perry said he intended to preserve Medicare as is for current and soon-to-be participants. “We’ll have a conversation with the rest of the country about what is the age at which we start transitioning away from the program we’ve got now. But folks who are either on or soon to be on [Medicare] don’t have anything to worry about. The program’s going to be there.” Beyond that, Perry’s position is, not unlike those of his rivals, pretty hard to pin down.

Ryan cited his disappointment at the reluctance of the current GOP field to embrace and compellingly articulate the need for significant entitlement reform as one of the reasons he was considering launching a bid himself. His backers argued that Democrats are going to run against Ryan’s budget no matter what; therefore it would make sense for its chief architect (and most capable defender) to run.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people on the Republican side who are less than eager to put entitlement reform ahead of jobs and the economy as primary issues in 2012. In fact, House GOP leaders ignored numerous warnings from consultants and pollsters who insisted (quite reasonably) that Medicare reform was a losing issue. But Ryan refused to take the politically expedient route, charging ahead with an intrepid plan in spite of the obvious risks. “Leaders change polls,” he said. Now that Ryan won’t be carrying the Republican banner in 2012, it remains to be seen whether any of the current crop of candidates will follow his lead.

— Andrew Stiles is the Franklin Center’s 2011 Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: budget; entitlement; paulryan; reform

1 posted on 08/23/2011 7:09:46 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

In a word, yes.

At the end of the day I don’t suspect the political will exists to actually do anything besides applying the FICA tax to higher and higher levels of income.

2 posted on 08/23/2011 7:21:48 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: SeekAndFind; ding_dong_daddy_from_dumas; stephenjohnbanker; DoughtyOne; calcowgirl; Gilbo_3; ...

My guess is YES. Presidential elections are about promising MORE FREE goodies not taking them away. Speaking of entitlements, how about the cutting of FICA/SS tax while still promising the benefits? That one’s a gem. No one pays. Funded by an imaginary trust fund.

I never liked the specifics (10 year delay/2 separate classes based on age ) in the Ryan plan, but in general entitlements are a hot rail of politics. And Republicans getting grief over voting for the Ryan plan even with that gimmick used the defense :”It’s just a proposal to start the conversation. It’s not a budget”. And liberals are mad that Democrats even claim they would consider entitlement cuts, yelling at Debbie Wassman Schultz at a rally.

And most ‘cuts’ in the debt extension are delayed till the next congress.

3 posted on 08/23/2011 7:22:14 AM PDT by sickoflibs (If you pay zero Federal income taxes, don't say you are paying your 'fair share')
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To: SeekAndFind

Democrats know they will lose our next election if they have to defend Obama’s first term.

Therefore, Democrats will do whatever they can to make that next election a referendum on “Death to Granny”.

Republicans should not take the bait.

Hopefully, Republicans will state that, when Obama’s job-killing initiatives are reversed, the economy will start growing again and that, as a resuilt, “Granny” won’t have to give up a thing!

4 posted on 08/23/2011 7:26:23 AM PDT by pfony1
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To: SeekAndFind

There will be no talk of entitlement reform, in fact the Republicans will portray themselves as champions of entitlements less they be demagogued by the Bolsheviks as throwing granny over the cliff. The Republicans will do nothing to endanger their standing with the entitlement electorate. They will talk of strengthening entitlements to make it viable in the future, in a vague way that will leave real reform open.

5 posted on 08/23/2011 7:31:21 AM PDT by depressed in 06 (I'll follow an eloquent Allen West out of hell.)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

“At the end of the day I don’t suspect the political will exists to actually do anything besides applying the FICA tax to higher and higher levels of income.”

If we don’t even have the political will to keep the FICA tax rate at the level it was eight months ago, how could you suspect we could summon the political will to apply it to higher income levels?

6 posted on 08/23/2011 7:44:07 AM PDT by ngat
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To: SeekAndFind

How about we do a few things first ?

Stop ALL public assistance to illegal aliens.

Eliminate the Department of Education.

Cut the EPA 90%, and get rid of 90% of their rules.

Why not start there ?

7 posted on 08/23/2011 10:51:27 AM PDT by jimt (Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed.)
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To: sickoflibs
RE: "That one’s a gem. No one pays. Funded by an imaginary trust fund."
And if the Chinese economy goes flat... less money to sink into our Treasury Notes.
8 posted on 08/23/2011 1:43:46 PM PDT by Marine_Uncle (Honor must be earned....Duncan Hunter Sr. for POTUS.)
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