It’s a sad indictment of today’s political discourse that the quality of a proposal can almost invariably be judged by the vehemence of the adjectives used to describe it.
The more extreme the rhetoric liberals choose to demagogue an idea, the better that idea probably is. So far I’ve heard the words “disturbing,” “extreme,” and my personal favorite, “a vicious plot to destroy our nation’s promise,” which came in a statement from House Democrats, used to describe Rep. Paul Ryan’s just-released Path to Prosperity budget.
Given the fervor of the attacks leveled against it you can pretty much rest assured that it’s a good plan. And based on my first reading, it is.
First and foremost it would reimagine the social safety net that is currently bursting at the seams.
For instance, Medicaid has grown from a $400 million per year program to a nearly $400 billion one. That explosive cost growth isn’t expected to slow. Indeed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service projects that within the decade costs will more than double to $804 billion. That is a burden that neither the federal government nor the states, which both share in the costs, can afford to pay.
Ryan’s plan would transform Medicaid into a block grant system that is indexed to inflation and population growth. This would provide states with the freedom and flexibility needed to adapt the program to their unique needs while also serving as a laboratories for cost-saving techniques.
The current fiscal situation of Medicare is arguably even worse. The CBO projects that the cost of Medicare will rise from 3.7 percent of GDP to 14 percent by 2085. For the sake of reference, tax revenues historically average around 18 percent of GDP. That means if the cost of Medicare grows as expected and taxes aren’t raised far above where they’ve ever been, Washington would only have 4 percent of GDP to spend on every other budget item from Social Security to education to defense. Of course, this won’t happen. Without change America WILL break a promise to its retirees. The budgetary math allows no other option.
But Paul Ryan’s budget does. The Path to Prosperity offers an innovative solution that blends options for a traditional fee-for-service option and a premium-support system in which beneficiaries receive an amount of money to spend on health care as they choose. By forcing health care plans to bid in a competitive market for subscribers Ryan’s plan uses market forces, not top-down government mandates or unworkable price controls, to keep prices down.
Finally, the Path to Prosperity would reform a Social Security program that has become an increasing burden on young adults.
“When Social Security was first enacted in 1935, each worker, on average, was contributing less than 2.5 percent of a retirees benefits. By 2030, each wage earner will be paying for nearly half of each retired person’s full benefits.” says Ryan’s budget resolution. “This is a massive shift of earnings away from younger families trying to build their futures, toward Social Security recipients.”
Not only is it unfair, but it is unworkable. Unless reforms are made the Social Security system will have to dramatically reduce its promised benefits for future generations. Although Ryan’s budget lacks a specific outline for reform, it sets the table for a concerted bipartisan effort to address the demographic changes in our society and ensure the solvency of Social Security.
Given that Republicans are now the only party in town with a comprehensive set of solutions to the major problems America faces, Democrats have nothing better to do than demagogue the heck out of the plan. “Democrats are poised to attack the GOP plan as one that would destroy the safety net for seniors and renege on an earlier agreement over government spending levels,” reports Lisa Mascaro in the LA Times.
But Paul Ryan’s budget isn’t about conflict. It’s about presenting an opportunity. An opportunity, as Ryan states, “for this generation of Americans to rise to the challenge, as previous generations have, and fulfill this nation’s unique legacy of leaving future generations with a freer, more prosperous America.”