The Denver Post’s editorial on Mitt Romney’s selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate calls Ryan “a radical choice” and his budget proposal “a one-sided, ideological proposal.”
Then again, four years (and $5 trillion in debt) ago, this line adorned The Denver Post endorsement of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for president: “He’s the right man to lead America back to prosperity.”
But don’t take our word for it that Ryan is the real deal. Listen to Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for Pres. Clinton, and the Democratic co-chair of President Obama’s eponymous Simpson-Bowles Commission, appointed to develop a long-term deficit reduction plan. Ryan was a member of the bi-partisan commission.
Bowles [see video above] spoke at the University of North Carolina in September of 2011, where he had previously served as president…
“Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the University. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was O.K. with arithmetic; this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. The budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan: it is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget. It cuts the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.”
“The President came out with his own plan. And the President, as you remember, came out with a budget, and I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-0. He therefore, after a lot of pressure from folks like me, he came out with a new budget framework. In that new budget framework, he cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, and to be candid, this $4 trillion cut is very heavily back-end loaded, so if you look at it on a 10-year basis, and compare apples-to-apple, it really was about a $2.5 trillion cut.”
It should be remembered that Pres. Obama listened politely to his deficit commission, which proposed both spending cuts and tax increases, dismissed them, and then ignored their work. He then presented, as Bowles notes, a budget that received exactly zero votes from members of either party. The Senate has, in contravention of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, failed to pass a budget for over three years.
In the full audio of his remarks, Bowles does characterize as a “pretty radical change” Ryan’s proposal to, as reported by the Charlotte News & Observer, “make Medicare a defined contribution plan, instead of a defined benefit plan.”
Since “radical” is also a word The Denver Post emphasizes in its evaluation of Ryan and his proposed entitlement reforms, let’s take a look under the hood.
Medicare, funded primarily by payroll taxes, “provides health coverage for 47.5 million people” and spent $516 billion in 2010, according to Medicare.gov.
Depending on how he numbers are run, Medicare may go broke sometime between 2016 and 2024, as described in this column by Avik Roy of Forbes.
While Ryan’s original proposal did indeed privatize the entire program, the current proposal, developed in cooperation with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., uses premium support. Traditional Medicare would be an option permanently, and the premium would be keyed to the second-lowest bid, assuring program members of at least two options that would cost them nothing additional. Such bipartisan flexibility should be cause for praise.
In addition, Medicare would remain as is for those older than 55, which Ryan repeats at every opportunity, but which is conveniently ignored and demagogued by the likes of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Here’s CNN’s Wolf Blitzer exposing it this week.
Democratic reform, meanwhile, fails “to offer any specifics or any vision – meaning that even under favorable circumstances, the best grade one can offer for the President’s Medicare ‘plan’ is an Incomplete,” writes U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in his recent analysis.
And listen to former Pres. Bill Clinton, immediately after the Democrats won a special Congressional election in upstate New York in 2011 by campaigning heavily against Ryan’s original proposal.
“I’m glad we won this race in New York,” Clinton said to Ryan. “But I hope the Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing on Medicare.”
It was the same concern that led Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton, to call the Wyden-Ryan approach, “worth a serious look.”
The Denver Post may want to bash Ryan’s budget proposal and proposed entitlement reforms, but the Nov. 6 election will be a stark contrast of his brand of leadership – contrasted with the Democrats’ simultaneous denial of mathematical reality and abdication of leadership.