Friday, March 23, 2012

Pity the Liberal Mugger

Pity the Liberal Mugger
By Ross Kaminsky on 3.23.12 @ 6:11AM

Paul Ryan's budget sends his critics over the edge -- but should we worry Mitt Romney has praised it?

The Paul Ryan/House Budget Committee "Path to Prosperity" FY 2013 Budget Resolution has inspired the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth among the leftist intelligentsia.

Jonathan Cohn, writing in for The New Republic, says that the Ryan plan "would take health insurance away from tens of millions of people, while effectively eliminating the federal government except for entitlements and defense spending."

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank says that Ryan "slashes the safety net to pay for tax cuts mostly for wealthy Americans" and that "Ryan's justification was straight out of Dickens."

The New York Times editorial page says that the future that Paul Ryan supports "could hardly be more bleak" and in which "the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor… are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states." (Apparently the federal government has no such "whims.") But wait, there's more from the Gray Lady: Paul Ryan's America is a place "where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened."

Perhaps the most telling example of the left's view of a modestly more rational economic policy comes from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney during a press conference aboard Air Force One:

[Y]ou have to be aggressively and deliberately ignorant of the world economy not to know and understand that clean energy technologies are going to play a huge role in the 21st century. You have to have severely diminished capacity to understand what drives economic growth in industrialized countries in this century if you do not understand that education is the key that unlocks the door to prosperity. The budget proposed by Chairman Ryan and supported overwhelmingly already by Republicans suggests that those problems exist in the minds of the supporters of that plan.

And from the fire and brimstone "social justice" wing of the Democratic Party, a blog called "God's Politics" says that Ryan's plan is un-Christian and "offers a quicker trip to judgment."

In other words, according to the left, Paul Ryan and Republicans who support his plan are not only heartless, not just stupid, but going straight to hell.

This view fits snugly with Democrats' opinions of the Republican presidential candidates, each of whom had a somewhat different reaction to the Ryan budget than Mr. Carney did.

In a recognition of both economic and political reality, and in a reversal from his "right-wing social engineering" comment following Rep. Ryan's 2011 budget proposal, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich endorsed this year's House budget: "I think what Ryan is doing is courageous. He's essentially right and the gap between him and Barack Obama is all that you need to know about why you want to beat Obama. I mean, Paul Ryan represents a serious adult effort to get back to a balanced budget and save our children and grandchildren from drowning in debt."

Former Senator Rick Santorum suggested that Ryan's plan is "a great blueprint for people to campaign upon and shows clear progress, dramatic progress, in the direction of shrinking the size of government." But, taking a cue from the skeptical Club for Growth, he also criticized the plan as not aggressive enough, saying that budget cuts and entitlement reforms "need to move forward quicker."

To nobody's surprise, Congressman Ron Paul says that Ryan's plan "doesn't cut anything of substance" and criticizes the plan for not balancing the budget for 30 years. While saying that Rep. Ryan is "sincere, and his budget is obviously better than Obama's," Congressman Paul opposes Ryan's increase in defense spending and believes the plan "does not seriously address our nation's debt crisis [and] will not distinguish [Republicans from Democrats] at all in the eyes of the American people." In the latter assertion, Dr. Paul could not be more incorrect.

Most interesting is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's reaction to Ryan: "I'm very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It's a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it's very much consistent with what I put out earlier." He described the plan as "a bold step toward putting our nation back on the track to fiscal sanity."

In less than 48 hours after the Ryan budget's release, Romney's unhesitating endorsement of it has associated him more than any other presidential candidate with the plan. Initially, one might view Romney's move as an unusual bear-hug by a "moderate" candidate of a plan that the so-called mainstream media tells its ever-diminishing readership and listenership is "extreme".

Both the libertarian-leaning FreedomWorks and the far-left DailyKos discuss "the Ryan-Romney budget." But while the latter offers the usual liberal spasms of "slashing Medicaid" and "eliminating Medicare as we know it," FreedomWorks, while terming Ryan's plan as "a great improvement on the status quo," says that Ryan's plan is "not nearly as bold and principled as these debt-drenched times require" and asks "why should we settle for a good budget when we can have a great one?"

FreedomWorks is particularly critical of Rep. Ryan's changes to his Medicare proposals from last year's House budget: "The new version of Medicare reform is in some ways the most troubling part of Ryan's package. To the relief of many Beltway Republicans, he has moved left from last year's bill in an attempt to garner some bipartisan respectability and defuse the Left's vicious criticisms. In doing so, he has unfortunately constructed what might be described as 'RomneyCare for seniors': a government health care program featuring an individual mandate, a pseudo-market "exchange," and bureaucratic price controls."

With such critiques from free-market groups, Romney's embrace of the Ryan plan fits perfectly -- at least during the Republican primary season -- with his moderate image and strategy, his claims of being "severely conservative" notwithstanding. The left may cry "extreme," but FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and others show Paul Ryan's plan to be simply a step in the right direction. Romney's buy-in to the House budget resolution gives political cover to both Romney and Ryan, making the former look more conservative and the latter, and more importantly his economic plan, more centrist.

In the meantime, you have to give the left credit for one thing: By complaining about Ryan's vision of moving the federal government slowly but surely out of areas like health insurance and energy subsidies, liberals are helping frame the underlying issue in the most important election in three generations -- to the likely benefit of Republicans.

With annual deficits exceeding a trillion dollars and Obama proposing increasing federal spending, the public's revulsion will only increase when it is reminded of where the money actually goes when the left is in charge, which is to say the many ways it is wasted. The more the N.Y. Times bemoans cuts to future Solyndras, "free" pre-school, and Obamacare, the better it is for the GOP -- despite the sincerity of newspaper editors who believe that the importance of any particular government spending is inversely proportional to that spending's support in the Constitution.

On the policy front, the most important lie told by the left is that the Ryan plan represents, as Robert Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, "the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history."

This claim, a corollary to the Democrats' "shared sacrifice" mantra, must not go unchallenged. The House budget is about allowing those who earn money to keep more of what they earn.

There is nothing in the Ryan plan that redistributes income from the poor to the rich, since the poor pay little or no income tax, and will not pay any more income tax under the Republican plan. The implication of the left's "redistribution" claim is that money that is taken from earners and given to non-earners, taken from the more productive and given to the less productive, is the rightful property of those who receive the money instead of those from whom it was taken. It is only in the world of "progressives" that reducing what Bastiat termed "legalized plunder" is considered a radical notion.

Imagine that you usually walk around with $100, but one day the ATM is broken so you head home with only 40 dollars in your wallet. Going through the park, you get mugged, with the mugger getting $40 instead of the $100 he would have ordinarily taken. According to the left, you (now $40 poorer) have just received a $60 redistribution of income from the mugger.

Paul Ryan and all those who support his plan, even with caveats -- and particularly Republican presidential candidates -- must call out Democrats for what they are: political muggers who want to make sure all your money is in your wallet when they meet you in the park.

To read another article by Ross Kaminsky, click here.

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