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Posted at 5:55 PM ET, 01/26/2011

Where was Ryan's roadmap?

By Ezra Klein

PH2011012508051.jpgPaul Ryan was tapped to give the GOP's response to the State of the Union last night because his fiscal “Roadmap” -- which gets specific on the way he would save money by reducing the benefits paid out by Medicare and Social Security -- made him a star within the party. But as Ross Douthat notes, Ryan managed to get through the speech without mentioning, or even alluding to, his Roadmap. Nor did the words "Medicare" or "Social Security" pass his lips. It was like watching Colonel Sanders give a speech that never mentioned chicken.

That was predictable, though. Ryan and the Republicans have an increasingly odd relationship: They need him as protection against the claim that they're a party of objections, not solutions. But his solution is much too radical for them, particularly now that they're in power. So they've embraced him and his reputation for tough choices and fiscal real talk, but not the plan that reputation is built on. And he's going along with it. But that's meant spending down a lot of the credibility the Roadmap gave him. As the Economist's Greg Ip lamented, it increasingly seems that as Ryan's "prominence in the party has risen, he has morphed from a principled fiscal hawk to an old-school ‘starve the beast’ Republican for whom lower taxes always trump deficit reduction."

The place where the rubber will really hit the road on this is the 2012 budget. The new House rules give Ryan extraordinary power over his party's budget process. And the fact that Republicans know their cuts won't pass the Senate gives them space to propose something more radical than they'd dare offer if they actually controlled the government. So I wouldn't be shocked to see them come forward with something fairly serious and specific. But as of yet, they've been downright terrified of specificity, and the few in the party who'd previously taken a different approach have gone right along. And that includes Ryan. Shortly after the election, NBC's Meredith Viera asked him to give some specific examples of programs he'd like to cut. "I can't tell you the answer to that," he said. He couldn't last night, either.

Photo credit: By Harry Hamburg

By Ezra Klein  | January 26, 2011; 5:55 PM ET
 
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Comments

Ryan never changed. Not scoring your huge tax cuts proves your a fraud. The fact that you and Ip were easy marks for Ryan's con doesn't mean he changed.

Posted by: endaround | January 26, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey, at least *someone* is talking about cutting spending. Obama says he does, but his proposition is to hold spending at the current level.

The Current Level???!

Does he not think you will notice that the level of spending just took at big hike this year? If spending is held at today's level, how's that any kind of a 'cut'?

The spending is high and the Democrats want to keep it that way.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 26, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

This is the same Paul Ryan that voted for all eight of Bush's budgets and the unfunded 800 billion Medicare expansion. Of course he has no principles.

Posted by: DavidCEisen | January 26, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Why is anyone surprised? Tea Party members, like Republicans, want the world but don't want to give anything

They want massive cuts (or say that) but have no idea how to get the actual cuts

Posted by: Bious | January 26, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

--*Nor did the words "Medicare" or "Social Security" pass [Ryan's] lips.*--

Ryan knows who would be screaming like a little girl, Klein, if he put forward the kind of plan that would really do some good.

But clever twist in your reporting, criticizing a politician for avoiding specifics. That's a new one.

So, how many times did Obama utter the words "Medicare" and "Social Security"? Exactly once, each. And what great, wonderful, fabulous, beatific things did he have to say about those ongoing monstrosities? What specifics did Obama offer to staunch the hemorrhaging of the nation's wealth in those two programs?

Anybody?

Posted by: msoja | January 26, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps new policy wasn't really the point of the State of the Union Rebuttal

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 26, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

See a tag cloud of Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address: http://robvstate.com/2011/01/25/tag-cloud-of-obamas-2011-state-of-the-union-address/

And see how it compares to the 2010 State of the Union Address

Posted by: robparisblog | January 26, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

It's a fair bet that Ryan's ambitions are beginning to outweigh his conservative principles. The higher he rises in the Republican hierarchy the more libertarian rhetoric will be an impediment.

The Tea Party may be an obstinate obstacle which mainline Republicans have to deal with, but they are still the majority of their House majority and the power to which anyone who aspires to higher office must relent.

Ryan knows which side of the crumpet the butter's on.

Posted by: tomcammarata | January 26, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

More vaporware from the Party of ideas (that never quite make it into print).

Ryan had just a couple choices. He could provide concrete alternatives to the budget we know is coming from Obama. Cut jobs here, eliminate programs there, add up the savings and, wait a minute, the savings don't add up and would be unpopular anyway. (Try eliminating the Department of Commerce, for instance. saves $11 Billion, and it only requires that you do away with the Patent Office, and the Trade Marks and Copyrights Office. Who needs them?) Of course, as fast as he proposes his staff persons point out that he will be cutting important government functions that BUSINESSMEN value quite highly. so maybe that wasn't a choice.

So Ryan can talk about how by doing away with medicare and medicaid we can not really save a lot of money because while he will eliminate spending he will eliminate income as well and right now they sort of balance so that he cuts spending and the deficit remains the same.

After a few such exercises he realizes why Boehner has never actually made public any of these plans he claims the republicans have.

The only time that the republicans are willing to talk specifics, it is the part where they demand that Rich Folks get tax cuts. And even then they immediately have to go back to vaporware to account for how this will help balance the budget.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 26, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

The Ryan speech was full of dogwhistles. The veiled reference to Social Security inferred that recent retirees would get benefits but everybody else would get slashed.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 26, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Most of the commentary coming from Republicans before and after last night’s speech focuses on the need to cut entitlements to reduce the deficit. Their solution is to have US workers suffer all the pain to fix our budget problems. What pain will the rich suffer, an increase in their tax rates? I doubt it! Where is there fairness and balance in their proposals?

Posted by: ken_gustin | January 26, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

--*cut entitlements to reduce the deficit. Their solution is to have US workers suffer all the pain*--

Funny, but I don't think that it's workers who are on the receiving end of entitlements, at least not the vast majority of them. It's workers and rich people (apparently, in lefty-ville, rich people don't work) who provide the dough that is doled out as entitlements. Abolish Medicare and dismantle Social Security and you'll be taking home more money every week (if you work, that is.) Of course, then you have to show a little responsibility with your own finances, but that's what people do when they decide they don't need a nanny anymore.

Posted by: msoja | January 26, 2011 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. Very disappointing: Ryan and Obama. Very stupid: Bachmann.

Why would a doctor never offer a Groupon? Because people don't care how much their own medical care actually costs. I'd rather see us give impoverished seniors cash than just have no competition on price.

Posted by: staticvars | January 26, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Where is the journolist plan?

Posted by: gfafblifr | January 27, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

"The veiled reference to Social Security inferred that recent retirees would get benefits but everybody else would get slashed."

Yeah, that was Bush's claim, too. You can get the real picture if you just insert "at first" before "but." It's just a ploy to lull retirees into letting it happen since, according to the ploy, they won't be hit. But that's only "at first."

ATTENTION EVERYBODY: IF retirees get a particular level of support that level of support will come from the efforts of current workers. OK, if workers right now stockpiled stuff for use after they retired then the support they get from the stockpile would be from their own work, essentially. But that doesn't happen to any significant degree.

ALSO NOTE: the ratio of workers to retirees is the same no matter how the support from the workers flows to the retirees. If there's a problem the problem is equally large with the "personal account" scheme as it is with the current Social Security system. That ratio isn't a valid talking point for showing the superiority of "personal accounts," it's just noise to prevent intelligent consideration and discussion.

Posted by: hewhoasks | January 27, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Paul Ryan's Voodoo Economics proposals were completely debunked by the detailed analysis of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in their March 2010 analysis. Summary:
The Ryan Budget's Radical Priorities Provides Largest Tax Cuts in History for Wealthy, Raises Middle Class Taxes, Ends Guaranteed Medicare, Privatizes Social Security, Erodes Health Care.
Link to report: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3114

Posted by: jburke2424 | January 27, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Paul Ryan's Voodoo Economics proposals were completely debunked by the detailed analysis of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in their March 2010 analysis. Summary:
The Ryan Budget's Radical Priorities Provides Largest Tax Cuts in History for Wealthy, Raises Middle Class Taxes, Ends Guaranteed Medicare, Privatizes Social Security, Erodes Health Care.
Link to report: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3114

Posted by: jburke2424 | January 27, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

What are Ryan's qualifications for the job he is taking on? From what I have read about him, he has very limited if any experience in budgeting and economics.

His proposals have been attacked by Nobel and conserative think tank economists for being dangerious to the economy, overly expensive and acutally creating a great deal more national debt.

In the very serious times we are in, the last thing we need is a rookie trying to develope the plan to get us back on the road of fiscal stability.

Posted by: meyer390 | January 27, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

--*In the very serious times we are in, the last thing we need is a rookie trying to develope the plan to get us back on the road of fiscal stability.*--

Are you talking about Obama?

Posted by: msoja | January 27, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Ryan is supposed to be among the most thoughtful and smartest of Republicans in Congress. Can he so misunderstand the dynamics of the insurance business to really believe that there would be coverage available for individuals over 65 from the private insurance industry at a price that would be absorbable for most people even with a government voucher. Private insurers are in business to make money for the stockholders which is fair enough. The one thing they must avoid to be successful is frequent utilization(beyond their pricing assumptions)of the benefits they sell. This is as true for life insurance as it is for health insurance. As long term care companies and policyholders are currently discovering, the insurers must keep raising their rates in order to avoid losing money. And the number of companies that even offer the product has declined drastically since the 1990s when the product became popular. In the case of medical insurance, given advances in longevity and medical technology, there really is no way for a company to realistically project utilization. To protect themselves and their stockholders they have noi choice except to assume utilization will be at "catastrophic" levels.
What Rep, Ryan and his like-minded colleagues don't seem to understand is that people over 65 utilize health insurance benefits with increasing frequency as they get older.(Just as they do with long term care benefits) And the current health care system encourages that behavior over and above pure and simple need. So too does the remarkable advances in medical technologies.
The net result of the the Republican position as presented by Ryan is nothing less than health care rationing with the distinguishing factor being personal wealth. The well off will either self insure or find primo coverage because the cost will be relatively immaterial to them. The overwhelming majority will either go without or have bare bones coverage that will force them to chose between medical service and cat food!
I don't know what the answer is to the so-called Medicare crisis, but clearly for the well being of the overwhelming majority of the nation's seniors, it is not the Republican Health Care Rationing Plan that is now on their table. On the other hand unregulated health care companies will be willing to play as long as they can charge whatever they choose. For most people, unless the voucher matches the rates the insurers conjure up (not what Ryan has in mind I suspect) the outlook is bleak. In fact when you think about it, this plan condemns most people to a future of increased pain, decreasing wellness, and could have the same effect as those legendary death panels, just without a government anointed committee calling the shots.

Posted by: seiglej | January 28, 2011 4:50 AM | Report abuse

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