When it comes to the third major entitlement program, Social Security, the Ryan plan punts, calling for "common-sense reforms to keep the program solvent" without actually proposing any. It does euphemistically note that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (on which Ryan served) suggested "a more progressive benefit structure" (i.e., smaller benefits for richer retirees) and "reforms that take account of increases in longevity" (i.e., a higher retirement age). Since Democrats such as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., already are accusing Ryan of seeking to "destroy the Medicare program," it's doubtful they will be the first to speak candidly on the subject of Social Security.
Likewise, people who think reducing spending by less than 2 percent would be "ruinous" (as The New York Times described the $61 billion in 2011 cuts approved by the House) will need new adjectives to condemn Ryan's impossible dream of returning "non-security discretionary spending" to a level that seemed perfectly adequate three or four years ago.
Democrats who do not like Ryan's mix of cuts should be attacking the "non-security" part of that formulation, since his plan takes only $78 billion, spread over five years, out of a massively bloated Pentagon budget that far exceeds the resources necessary to defend the country. But this laughably inadequate gesture of restraint tracks what Obama already has proposed.
"Ending corporate welfare," which the Republican plan claims to do, is another potentially fertile area for Democratic counterproposals. Why "reform" agricultural subsidies, for instance, when they should be eliminated entirely? And do Democrats think the Republicans have identified every objectionable business subsidy in the $3.8 trillion budget?
Ryan has taken a serious stab at fiscal restraint. It deserves a serious response.
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