Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Passes For Courage

The Economist calls Rep. Paul Ryan "a brave man" for his deficit reduction plan. I'm astonished by what passes for courage among pundits. The accolades he received when he died notwithstanding, Sen. Ted Kennedy wasn't brave for voting for massive government spending as a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. What would've been risky for Ryan, as a tea party-supported congressman from a conservative district, would've been backing entitlement reform with means testing, prudent post-Cold War defense procurement cuts, and some new revenues, if only by closing appalling loopholes -- in other words, by supporting Simpson-Bowles. But no. As the Economist itself writes:

Mr Ryan was...wrong to vote against the proposals of the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, which he did on the grounds that it wanted to close the deficit partly through an increase in tax revenues. He believes that the gap should be closed wholly through spending cuts. Because Mr Ryan, in true Republican fashion, wants to increase spending on defence, everything else—poverty relief, transport infrastructure, environmental protection and education, for instance—will have to be squeezed intolerably.

Playing to the GOP's stingy base, which demands cuts for the poor and uninterrupted federal goodies for itself, is about as edgy as wearing a Yankees jersey in the Bronx. Of course Barack Obama didn't have the guts to accept the commission's recommendations, either, and it was his commission. At the moment there appears to be more courage at the weekly meeting of the St. John's Boy Scout troop than on the major parties' tickets.

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