Suzanne Fields

Women's issues have a prominent place in the debate, but numbers are neutral and getting control of them is a job for both men and women. The economic issues as they apply to families cut across gender lines. At the rate we're going, Medicare, the safety net that is there to catch everyone, will have to be cut radically. Raising taxes, the liberal remedy of choice, can't save us. Economics 101, which fell out of fashion for so long, teaches that high taxes only curb growth.

Barbie, as in doll, offended many women when she was programmed to say she hated math, thus stereotyping girls as having trouble with numbers. The way certain Democrats in Congress have reduced real budget concerns for women makes them sound as though Barbie had a point.

But women have traditionally been in charge of the family pocketbook, budgeting for the food on the table, the kids' clothes, and shoes and school expenses, and this generally makes them a conservative lot suspicious of radical change.

We're all struggling to understand what to do about the numbers, and the Ryan plan offers a gradual, but real, approach to reform. Yuval Levin, writing in the Weekly Standard, calls it "radical gradualism" that saves the safety net.

"For all of its budget cutting," he observes, "(Mr.) Ryan proposes to bring federal spending and taxes down to about 19 percent of gross domestic product -- the average level in postwar years. Its basic aim is to avoid sudden or radical breaks, because predictability and security are essential both for enabling growth and for instilling confidence in consumers, producers, investors and creditors."

Some conservatives argue that his plan for balancing the budget is too gradual, but it changes course by striking the balance between taxing and spending, with neither radical cuts in entitlements nor enormous tax increases.

The entitlement reforms won't affect Americans who are _retired or even nearly there. Restraining federal government spending by $5.8 trillion less over the next decade would be both fair and politically astute.

Numbers like these are enough to make us all Barbies. But the scary numbers inform the real debate that we've got to have, like it or not. The numbers don't add up to a declaration of war against women, but invite women to become part of the solutions we must find, and soon.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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