Bill Murchison

What has Paul Ryan in mind that makes particular Republicans, as the Post headlines puts it, "wince"? Well, rationalizing the tax system -- abolishing capital gains taxes, compressing and lowering the rates, including the rates for "the wealthy." On Medicare, Ryan would let under-55s receive a Medicare payment they could use to buy Medicare-certified health plans. Social Security? He'd allow the same demographic to invest a third of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement plans.

And so on. The Roadmap is calibrated to whittle down, over time, the federal government's long-term commitment to programs it can no longer afford. Realism is the rock on which Ryan has sketched his plan: We can't do X, so we have to do Y. That's of course where the trouble starts. Realism gets your average politician in trouble. A certain kind of voter prefers fantasy. Better to spoon out fantasy in dollops of spun-sugar promises and let future Congresses figure out what comes next!

Or is it? No plan, however creative, however frank in its aspirations, is perfect through and through. Ryan's Roadmap -- whose assumptions are verified by the Congressional Budget Office -- can't possibly be ideal and untouchable. Which isn't quite the point. The point is the courage of the man in bringing forth so bold a measure. The point is, secondarily, the need for Republicans, if they really think themselves up to running the country, either to fall in line behind Ryan or show their own hands. So, the Roadmap won't get us there? Pray, and then show us a better, more plausible route. And show it without delay.

Ryan's unassailable, irrefutable point is that we can't go on as we're going; we don't have the money. Victorious Republicans, take heed.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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