Friday, December 3, 2010

Addendum on Paul Ryan and the Deficit Commission

I didn't fully understand why Paul Ryan objected to the Deficit Commission recommendations, but I published his video yesterday anyway, because he has a good reputation as an "anti-progressive." (In this day and age, could there be a more reverential honorific?) Today's WSJ gives more detail on why Paul Ryan made the right move:

Longer-term, the problems are the liberal entitlements of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and, starting in 2014, ObamaCare, which will add about 20 million to the Medicaid rolls. Democrats want to keep these programs as they are and pay for them with much higher taxes—first by balancing the budget at 25% of GDP, and later by necessity at 30%, 40% or more. The alternative—which we support—is to reform the programs and reduce their scope.

Yet, incredibly, the Simpson-Bowles report has almost nothing to say about the runaway health-care entitlements. This is a bow to the left and the White House, which cut Medicare by $500 billion to finance a corner of ObamaCare and wants its signature achievement untouched. But this is like doing a Pentagon budget review and excluding Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans ought to reject the report on those grounds alone

This is the key failure of the commission, and why its work, however worthwhile, doesn't go far enough in addressing the key problems at hand.

Look at the graph from my previous post on this subject and you see that without addressing social security, and medical entitlements there is no long term hope for deficit reduction. My biggest fear is that a short term recovery, which seems to be in the offing, will remove the sense of urgency over the issues at hand. I am a firm believer in the long term prospects for America, but the debt issues are going to take a decade to work out, IMHO. If a recovery gives some breathing space, we better use it to repair the balance sheets of the federal government.

A not small consolation in this whole exercise was that using the commission as a stealth means to get a VAT into the political discussion never happened. No wonder the Democrats have little good to say about the commission.

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