Path to Prosperity

MediScare, Part “O”, The Entitlement Bomb

Paul Ryan

Early during his second term, President George W. Bush declared he would spend his accumulated political capital on reforming Social Security. Democrats immediately lambasted the president, falsely claiming that his reform ideas were “radical” and would leave the elderly penniless and laying in the streets. They claimed Bush would gamble the life savings of our parents and grandparents on the stock market, and that his Wall Street buddies would grow rich while swindling granny out of everything she owned.

Of course, the truth was nowhere close. Bush’s “Strengthening Social Security for the 21st Century” plan was actually quite timid. It made no changes, zero, in the Social Security program for those 55 and over. Under Bush’s plan, personal retirement accounts would be phased in, with annual contribution limits gradually increased to a staggering…4%…yes 4%…of workers’ payroll taxes allocated to their personal accounts, with annual contributions initially capped at $1,000 per year in 2009, rising over time by $100 annually, plus growth in average wages. In other words, a measly 4% of payroll taxes would have been invested in private accounts, with the other 96% staying in the Social Security Trust Fund.

And yet due to this “radical” plan, this blindingly fast weaning of Americans from the government teat, Democrats successfully terrified Americas seniors and Bush’s political capital was eviscerated. He would end up abandoning the effort and Republicans would crawl back into their shells, unwilling to again touch this third rail of American politics.

Thoughts On Paul Ryan

By United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Anecdotal evidence seems to show that the enthusiasm has definitely increased among conservative voters for the Romney campaign. The crowds have gotten larger at Romney-Ryan events. However, similar anecdotal evidence seems to show that the left is just as fired up and more motivated to defend Obama. Meanwhile, reading the Tweets and Facebook posts from my libertarian friends show that the Ryan pick has not made them more willing to consider the Romney ticket. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the Ryan selection.

The Positive

The biggest positive about the Ryan selection is that this campaign may actually wind up being a debate on the future of our country. The Obama campaign is already seizing on the Ryan budget plan and is attacking it as destroying Medicare, Social Security, and just about every other government program under the sun. Now is an opportunity for the Romney-Ryan campaign to articulate an argument for limiting the size and scope of government as a means of reviving the economy. The American people would be well served by a debate over the size and scope of government. Also, ultimately, given the other choices that Romney was considering, Ryan was probably the best pick. Romney needed to pick someone who would fire up the ticket.

The Negatives

Weighing the Paul Ryan Announcement

Paul Ryan

This weekend Mitt Romney announced that his running mate would be Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Ryan gained a lot of notoriety recently with his better-than-Obama’s budget proposal, which aimed to balance the budget in the next 3 or 4 decades.

It’s a sad day for conservatives when the hero to save them from their budget woes needs 30+ years to balance the budget.

Still, Ryan is the latest non-libertarian making waves about balancing the federal budget, so I would like to believe that Romney’s pick of Ryan is more about sending a message that he is (or that he wants to be) serious about fiscal issues rather than a pick to appease the Tea Party folks who don’t really care for Romney.

I am, however, a bit confused over the Tea Party excitement of Ryan. Sure, Romney could have made a worse choice, but Tea Party leaders are acting like the problems with Romney have vanished now that Ryan is on the ticket.

Let’s remember this is the same Paul Ryan who not only supported TARP but went to the floor of the House to beg his colleagues to do the same. This is the same Paul Ryan who supported the auto bailouts. How do those positions qualify anyone as a fiscal conservative?

A Tale of Two Paul Ryans

Paul Ryan

As a libertarian, I approve of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice. Naturally, I expect this statement to inflame a certain subset of the movement - but to those of you who are invested in mainstreaming libertarian thought, particularly within the Republican Party, I hope you’ll consider why the Ryan pick is actually a victory for us - on an intellectual level.

The reality is that we’re contending with a tale of two Paul Ryans. The Paul Ryan that I like, and encourage other libertarians to embrace, is Vice Presidential candidate Ryan - the man with a natural gift for communicating; who articulates the dire need for entitlement reform and balanced budgets effectively (which I recognize and appreciate, even if I disagree with some aspects of his plans). Before we can enact the bolder reforms of, say for example, Senator Rand Paul, the public needs to be introduced to the notion that entitlement programs are no longer the third rail of politics. Vice Presidential candidate Ryan is different from his evil twin Congressman Ryan, whose voting record libertarians should rightfully reject. But we need to understand the difference between the two Paul Ryans, and how one can be our enemy while the other is our friend.

Mitt Romney introduces Paul Ryan in Norfolk

Paul Ryan

With the USS Wisconsin serving as the backdrop, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney formally introduced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate this morning in Norfolk, Virginia, a very crucial battleground state.

Ryan will no doubt be a controversial pick. His budget proposals have been endlessly demagogued by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. However, those same budgets have helped put the House GOP’s focus back on fiscal issues more than wedge social issues.

Over the last four years, President Obama has been unable to piece together a budget that could attract enough support to pass Congress. In fact, when Obama’s budget was brought up for a vote in the House, it was shot down unanimously. The Senate followed in May, rejecting Obama’s budget without a single vote in support.

While Obama’s campaign will no doubt be gunning for Romney’s running mate over his budget proposals — the “Roadmap for America’s Future” and the “Path to Prosperity,” don’t expect Ryan to back down. Ryan has taken on Obama before over fiscal policy, making the President’s rhetoric look cheap in the process.

Paul Ryan should stay in the House

Paul Ryan

Speculation over Mitt Romney’s possible running mate has been rampant over the last few days. While other names are being floated, including David Petraeus and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, most observers seem to agree that it’s likely down to three candidates — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Out of the three, Rep. Ryan is garnering the most attention. Many conservatives seem to want him included on the ticket, and they’re laying out a strong case. David Harsanyi, for example, explains that Rep. Ryan “would add a measure of number-crunching earnestness to a campaign (and then, more importantly, should it happen, to an administration) that lives on broad strokes.” However, some want him to remain in remain in the House, where, as chairman of the Budget Committee, he has laid the blueprint to fiscal reform. My colleagues Jeremy Kolassa and George Scoville have already touched on the need for Rep. Ryan to remain in the House for exactly this reason. Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis noted that, as Vice President, Ryan would be largely marginalized.

Sentences I Hate: “Americans Are Hungry for Leadership.”

Cross-posted from Friction Tape.

By United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wall Street Journal editorial board today floats House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as the best possible vice presidential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:

The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn’t get mad, or at least he doesn’t show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.

How Newt Gingrich screwed over the 2012 GOP nominee

Does Newt Gingrich know what he believes? It’s a serious question. The guy that is often seen as a leading intellectual behind the conservative movement and is hoping to be the Republican presidential nominee is sure making some big mistakes in his first week as a candidate.

Over the weekend, Gingrich slammed the budget plan presented by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for “right-wing social engineering”:

Newt Gingrich’s appearance on “Meet the Press” today could leave some wondering which party’s nomination he is running for. The former speaker had some harsh words for Paul Ryan’s (and by extension, nearly every House Republican’s) plan to reform Medicare, calling it “radical.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” he said when asked about Ryan’s plan to transition to a “premium support” model for Medicare. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

As far as an alternative, Gingrich trotted out the same appeal employed by Obama/Reid/Pelosi — for a “national conversation” on how to “improve” Medicare, and promised to eliminate ‘waste, fraud and abuse,’ etc.

“I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options,” Gingrich said. Ryan’s plan was simply “too big a jump.”

President Pyro and the Field of Straw Men

Eight hundred and fourteen days. That is how long it has taken me to lose my last shred of respect for the current President of the United States. Erupting onto the national political stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama was immediately praised as a rising star. A charismatic, well-spoken young politician, he clearly had a future in politics. A tall, lanky senator from Illinois, he drew comparisons to Abraham Lincoln. A black man that avoided being characterized as a black politician (as opposed to a politician who happens to be black), he avoided bombastic speeches about racism and reparations. He gave white Americans still harboring guilt over our ancestors’ participation in the evil of the human slave trade the chance to prove they were no longer racist by voting for him. His entire campaign was a nebulous celebration of “Hope and Change”. He was the post-racial, post-partisan candidate that as president would heal the divide between black and white, Republican and Democrat.

That was then, this is now.

Last month, having given speech after speech decrying the need for fiscal responsibility and the need to rein in the deficits and get the debt under control, President Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion dollar federal budget that increased federal spending and projected (based on unrealistically optimistic growth rates for the next few years) $1.6 trillion in deficits for the year, with annual deficits averaging around $1 trillion over the next decade. It increased spending. It did nothing to control the largest contributors to the deficit and long term debt (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the $14.2 trillion national debt). In short, the serious discussion he claimed to want regarding fiscal responsibility was nowhere to be found in his budget.

Ryan Plan? Ho-hum!

So Paul Ryan announced his plan to balance the budget, cut trillions from proposed spending, and put America on a path to paying off the deficit.  Republicans around the country are hailing it as the second coming of Ronald Reagan, and Democrats continue to call any reasonable idea extreme.

Me?  I am not at all excited.

Let me explain.  Paul Ryan’s proposal continues to run a deficit for the next 26 years.  That means that even if the plan was adopted as is, and we know it won’t be, the best we can possibly hope for is a deficit that continues to swell for 26 more years before the first dollar is paid off.

Add to this that his projections also rely on unemployment reaching 3%, and you can quickly see that the the whole thing is just not that realistic.

I am glad that Representative Ryan has taken some leadership where there has been none, and I do not want to beat up on the guy, but this plan just isn’t enough.  It is time to get real.  And it is time to make some really tough choices.

We shouldn’t be looking at 26 years of additional deficits as the best we can do.


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