The Truth About Ryan and His Critics
By Tom Coburn @ WSJ (August 22, 2012)
First, Paul Ryan didn’t force President Obama to abandon the budget recommendations of his own 2010 deficit commission, known as Bowles-Simpson. Mr. Obama’s decision to punt on deficit reduction—and then to ridicule Mr. Ryan’s plan to address the deficit—offended and disappointed Republicans and Democrats alike.
For example, Erskine Bowles, President Clinton’s former chief of staff and the co-chairman of the Bowles-Simpson commission, described the Ryan budget that passed the House in March as “sensible, straightforward, honest, [and] serious.” About President’s Obama’s budget, which failed in the Senate in May by a vote of 97 to zero, Mr. Bowles said, “I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously.”
What he has been missing is a willing partner in the White House and Senate. At any point in the past four years, President Obama could have called Republicans John Boehner, now House speaker, and Rep. Ryan, now House Budget Committee chairman, over to the White House and cut a budget deal. The president doesn’t have to wait for a crisis, such as a debt-limit vote or a fiscal cliff. Attacking Mr. Ryan for not carrying his weight is like Britain’s prewar-appeasement prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, accusing Winston Churchill of not being prepared for World War II.
Mr. Ryan’s public explanation for voting against Bowles-Simpson was the same one he told commission members at the time. A central objection was that by taking ObamaCare “off the table,” the commission put what everyone knew to be a fiscally flawed program off-limits. He was also troubled that the commission would not embrace structural entitlement reform.
As Mr. Ryan explained on “Meet the Press” on May 20: “Bowles-Simpson says reduce tax rates across the board by closing special-interest loopholes, which is what we say. The reason people like me didn’t support Bowles-Simpson, because it ignored health-care entitlements, the driver of our debt, and therefore we put up our alternatives. . . . That’s how you get the compromise. . . .
What is radical in 2012 is not Paul Ryan’s vision but the lengths to which his critics will go to avoid dealing with the national debt. By picking Mr. Ryan as his vice president, Mr. Romney has given America the debate it deserves, and a team that can succeed.