Mr. Ryan showed his conservative mettle in 2008 when he folded like a lawn chair on the auto bailout and the Wall Street bailout. But the greater hypocrisy is his phony “plan” to solve the entitlements mess by deferring changes to social insurance by at least a decade.No means tests for entitlements plus cruel safety-net shredding that will punish the poor while saving virtually no money. That's the Tea Party platform in a nutshell, as Timothy Noah wrote in January when he listed all the big-government programs these so-called conservatives love.
A true agenda to reform the welfare state would require a sweeping, income-based eligibility test, which would reduce or eliminate social insurance benefits for millions of affluent retirees. Without it, there is no math that can avoid giant tax increases or vast new borrowing. Yet the supposedly courageous Ryan plan would not cut one dime over the next decade from the $1.3 trillion-per-year cost of Social Security and Medicare.
Instead, it shreds the measly means-tested safety net for the vulnerable: the roughly $100 billion per year for food stamps and cash assistance for needy families and the $300 billion budget for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Shifting more Medicaid costs to the states will be mere make-believe if federal financing is drastically cut.
Likewise, hacking away at the roughly $400 billion domestic discretionary budget (what’s left of the federal budget after defense, Social Security, health and safety-net spending and interest on the national debt) will yield only a rounding error’s worth of savings after popular programs (which Republicans heartily favor) like cancer research, national parks, veterans’ benefits, farm aid, highway subsidies, education grants and small-business loans are accommodated.
There's actually a difference between being conservative and being selfish. In his book Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent, E.J. Dionne describes a telling split between tea party thinking and the more compassionate conservatism proclaimed and sometimes practiced by Republicans in other eras:
While 50 percent of white evangelicals and 46 percent of Christian conservatives said 'it is not a big problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others,' 64 percent of Tea Party supporters felt that way."That's two-thirds of the Ryan fan club saying to those who lack the opportunity to thrive, "I've got mine. It might not be your fault you don't have yours, but pound sand anyway." The new America?