As you hear all the attacks on Paul Ryan and his budget plan from the Obama campaign and their media promoters, ask yourself one question: What in the world did Ryan have to gain with his budget proposal?
The answer is nothing personally. He hardly could see it would propel him to be a vice-presidential nominee. In fact, he had much to lose by proposing it.
Conventional wisdom dictated then — and by the reaction of the Obama campaign to Ryan as Mitt Romney‘s VP candidate, still dictates today — that it is political suicide to go after America’s entitlement programs. They are a “third rail” of American politics, not to be touched by any politician who wants to remain in office. That’s especially true for a Republican like Ryan who comes from a swing district that backed President Obama in 2008.
But Ryan took on America’s entitlement problems anyway, particularly Medicare, because he knew if the programs weren’t addressed they would crush America’s finances and bankrupt the country. He didn’t say his plan was perfect. He was willing to work with other serious colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make it better. In fact, he reworked his Medicare reform with liberal Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden to improve on an earlier version.
But in the end, so few on the Democratic side came to the table.
So, yes, it is easy to nitpick Ryan’s plan. Could it use tweaks? Sure. Could some of his assumptions be off? Quite possibly. But remember: Unlike most of his criticizers in government, he has a plan — one that even former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles considers very serious.
The term for what Ryan has done used to be “leadership,” though I suppose leadership is now known as radical in some circles. And to some, Ryan’s leadership somehow makes him a “political coward” and a “murderer of opportunity,” as one particularly unhinged writer spewed in Esquire. But those racing to criticize Ryan and his budget plan should ask themselves why their favorite rep hasn’t put together a serious plan that deals with America’s looming crisis.
And what about President Obama?
When Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appeared before Ryan’s budget committee this year to discuss Team Obama’s preposterous budget proposal — so unworkable and unpopular that it attracted precisely zero votes in the House and Senate — Geithner admitted the president had no plan to deal with America’s tens of trillions of unfunded liabilities embedded in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“We’re not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long term problem,” Geithner stammered when pressed by Ryan and confronted with a chart that showed America’s finances hurtling off a cliff, based on Obama’s a budget.
“What we do know is we don’t like yours.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, sums up President Obama’s idea of leadership. The word “pathetic” comes to mind, especially after more than three years in office. Explain, again, why the guy who came up with a plan is the villain?