What’s wrong with Paul Ryan’s plan?

Megan McArdle
The Atlantic
8/10/2010

As I think I may have mentioned, I am skeptical of Paul Ryan’s roadmap. Not because it’s dishonest, but because it’s hard. Really hard. As in, I-don’t-see-how-it-could-possibly-survive-the-legislative-process hard.

The tax rates in his alternative tax plan would probably have to go up, just because that’s the general fate of policy proposals that go through the legislative process; people with policy proposals are, almost definitionally, not pessimistic about their possibilities. The entitlement changes would be gleefully gutted by politicians with a keen eye to their own re-election. The discretionary spending freeze would not survive first contact with the next recession. Even the most responsible, careful politician cannot guarantee responsibility and care in their successors.

Nonetheless, I think it’s a really, really important document. Why? Because it is the most honest attempt I’ve seen by a politician to grapple with the challenges ahead of us. Strike that; it is the only attempt that I’m aware of to grapple with what lies ahead of us. Others have been willing to discuss things piecemeal, or delegate the nasty job of balancing a budget to a commission, but as far as I know only Paul Ryan has come forward and said, “Here’s how all the moving parts are going to fit together.”

And what this document shows is that it’s going to be difficult. Regardless of what you think of his tax plans, Paul Ryan has done what liberals keep asking Republicans to do: show us what he’d cut. No, he hasn’t gone through the whole budget with a fine toothed comb and given us the exact funding level for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If he had, it would be stupid; even the most powerful legislator cannot tie the hands of those in the future completely. He’s offered cuts to domestic discretionary spending and entitlements that would hold the line under 20% of GDP. If Republicans want to shrink the size of government, they’re going to have to sign onto Ryan’s spending plan, or put forward their own, with equally dramatic trimming.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

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