From Michael A. Walsh, at the New York Post:
Lost in the reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget resolution — which seeks to reform “entitlements,” abolish ObamaCare, retire the national debt and put the country again on a sound financial footing — is the plan’s moral underpinning. Simply put, Ryan is asking Americans to grow up, stop whining and take back control of their destinies from the nanny state.
Finally, somebody has started an adult conversation in Washington.
“Our debt problem is not just a fiscal challenge involving dollars and cents,” the Wisconsin congressman said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, as he was formulating his plan. “It’s a moral challenge involving questions of principle and purpose . . . A government that would solve problems without limit must necessarily have power without limit to do it.”
Democrats have been quick to grasp the moral — and mortal — challenge Ryan’s “roadmap” poses to their New Deal/Great Society conception of government. On cue came a circus parade of sound-bite donkeys, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, each braying that Ryan’s proposals are “extreme” and the cuts “draconian” and that, naturally, the GOP wants to kill the elderly, children, women and minorities.
Restructuring the tax code, fixing Medicare and Medicaid to ensure their solvency, cutting corporate welfare, jettisoning the “green jobs” bedtime story — all these reforms strike at the heart of the cozy Washington establishment protected for decades by a national media obsessed with the chimera of “bipartisanship.”
This largely imaginary concept, which posits that no differences between the political parties are too big to be papered over, has fueled much of our national discontent over the last two decades. It has resulted in one half-measure (minuscule cuts in “discretionary spending”) or half-baked notion (Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, prescription drugs for seniors) after another being forced upon the body politic. And it has put us where we are today.
Some commentators on the left have gotten the message.
“If the GOP gets behind his proposals in a serious way, it will become for the first time in modern memory an intellectually serious party — one with a coherent vision to match its rhetoric of limited government,” wrote Jacob Weisberg in Slate. “Democrats are within their rights to point out the negative effects of Ryan’s proposed cuts on future retirees, working families and the poor . . . but the ball is now in their court.”
Which brings us back to the moral issues. What, if anything, do we owe “future retirees” that those retirees ought not to have provided for themselves? What, if anything, does society owe “working families” in a functioning capitalist system? What, if anything, does society owe “the poor” that charity cannot provide and that, in any case, ought to be voluntarily offered instead of coerced?
And what does any of this have to do with a federal government of limited enumerated powers?
These things can and should be vigorously debated; they aren’t issues that were permanently settled in 1936 or 1965. If we can no longer afford a vast welfare state (and the evidence is that we can’t), then what is the “moral” response — not to real or imagined needs but to lack of means?
The answer won’t be pleasant for some. “Morality” doesn’t simply dictate that the nation’s productive taxpayers allow themselves to be bled dry in the name of some vague notion of “fairness” or, worse, “economic justice.”
Rather, morality must apply universally, not just to so-called protected classes. Indeed, the notion of “protected classes” is something that should be seen for what it is — fundamentally un-American — and dispensed with. Either we are all in this together or we really have become “two Americas” — the givers and the takers.
President Obama’s infinite budgetary horizon of trillion-dollar deficits needs to be called what it is — electoral bribery — and stopped. There’s nothing humane about a system whose unspoken purpose is to keep people dependent, resentful and impoverished.
Is Ryan’s plan perfect? Of course not. But the perfect should never be the enemy of the good, especially when the system is failing the country so signally. Ryan’s plan is groundbreaking not for its number-crunching but for changing the subject from process to principles, which is where the next election needs to be fought.
If the Republicans are to have any chance against the billion-dollar Obama campaign gearing up to crush them next year, they’d better wise up — fast.