Paul Ryan: 'Stop Measuring Compassion by How Much We Spend'

Posted: May 08, 2012 1:20 PM

Ever since President George W. Bush used the phrase "compassionate conservatism" as a justification for his domestic policies that were heavier on spending, the political world has complacently allowed "compassion" to be conflated with "spending." Washington has injected trillions of dollars -- and a heck of a lot of good intent -- into programs designed to help the poor, the vulnerable, and the sick, while calls for an evaluation of how that money is spent are met with villification.

Just look at Rep. Paul Ryan. After he introduced a budget that would curb our out-of-control spending, the Democrats ran ads showing him pushing a grandmother off a cliff, while 90 (ostensibly) Catholic faculty members at Georgetown University condemned his proposal as immoral.

Well, Ryan is fighting back. Rather than allow the Left to put words in his mouth, he's turning the tables, and questioning whether it's really "compassionate" to pump money into programs that don't actually help their intended targets. Watch as he takes two minutes to redefine "compassionate conservative," and prove that austerity doesn't mean heartlessness:

You know, I think around here, we spend too much of our time and intellectual effort measuring compassion as input: "How much money are we spending? How much money are we increasing spending? How many programs are we creating?" But we're not measuring outcomes: "Are these programs working? Are people getting out of poverty?" And we need to focus on that.

Because if we simply measure inputs, Medicaid is phenomenally successful. A 50% increase in the past ten years, a forthcoming 125% increase in ten years, or, if this passes, a 123% increase in ten years.

But surveys are telling us that doctors aren't even taking Medicaid patients. One recent survey said that approximately half of all our doctors aren't going to take any additional Medicaid patients, because they lose money every time a Medicaid patient walks into their office.

OMB told us that last year, Medicaid made $22 billion in improper payments. That means fraud, waste. Twenty-two billion dollars! That's more than my state's budget in wasteful spending.

So the program's not working. One of the reasons the program is not working, according to state legislators, governors, people in charge of putting the program in place is, all the strings they get from Washington. They want flexibility. They want to be able to customize this program, so that it works in their state, for their population, so that they can get at the waste, the fraud. So that they can make sure that their doctors will accept these patients.

It's been called "stability requirement." That, to me, just means strings from Washington. What we're doing with this policy is giving more flexibility to states, so that they can fix these problems because they're closer to the people who are in need. We dontt have all the answers in Washington. If we did, it wouldn't be such a huge problem. But it is a huge problem.

When I watch Ryan speak, I see true compassion and humility. For all President Obama's talk about Washington's failures, he sure does act like he and his bureaucrats have all the answers. They're drunk on their own power, and their unwillingness to hand more control to the states is driving us to financial ruin. By contrast, Paul Ryan wants to find real solutions to the problems at hand; to both curb spending and waste, and ensure that those less fortunate aren't turned away from medical care. And he believes that the way to achieve these goals is to abdicate some power, and restructure the budget (note that his proposal only cuts Medicaid spending by two percent over ten years from what Obama asked for!). Throwing money and good intent at an ineffective government program might make you feel good, and it might make you look good, but it won't actually do good. And isn't that what really matters?