Paul Ryan, Statesman

Photo: Congressman Paul Ryan

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Congressman Paul Ryan made the case for a compromise to end the government shutdown, address the approaching debt limit, and start down the path to long-term fiscal sanity. Our government may be in the midst of a crisis, but Ryan also sees opportunity—there is something to be gained for both Republicans and Democrats. Today, the Washington Post ran an approving editorial of their own, adding to the growing momentum behind Ryan’s proposal.

To understand what Ryan is proposing, and why it might work, it helps to recall how we got here: the Budget Control Act of 2011 gave us what is now known as The Sequester—automatic, across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending (including defense) designed to be politically unacceptable to both Republicans and Democrats. No lasting budget deal was reached, and in March of this year, budget sequestration kicked in. The political take-away is this: even before the federal government began shutting down last week, both Democrats and Republicans were unhappy about how the government was spending money.

It is with that in mind that Paul Ryan lays out the basic premise of proposed compromise. This from his Wall Street Journal op-ed:

If Mr. Obama decides to talk [to Republicans in Congress], he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.

Democrats get something they want (relief from “artificially low” sequester-level discretionary spending) and Republicans get something they want (a first step toward entitlement and tax reform.) In the meantime, America gets a reprieve from this corrosive pattern of governance-by-crisis and a first step toward long-term fiscal health. Notably absent in Ryan’s plan is the repeal or defunding Obamacare, which would be off the table for the time being.

Expectations for what such a compromise could achieve should be modest, Ryan warns, but the opportunity is real:

This isn’t a grand bargain. For that, we need a complete rethinking of government’s approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care. But right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today—and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. So let’s negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.

The Washington Post editorial agrees:

This is what both sides should be talking about. Unreformed entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, will drive the country deeper and deeper into debt, as a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis showed; meanwhile, Congress and Mr. Obama have agreed to unsustainably deep cuts in all other spending, including defense, education, parks and many other programs. Mr. Ryan says some of those cuts could be undone in exchange for reforms to Medicare and Social Security, including some that Mr. Obama included in his budget. There should be common ground.

For Congressman Ryan’s proposal to come to fruition, a great many things must happen. It’s hardly a sure thing. But for the first time in far too long, there seems to be momentum behind a plan that is not political poison to one side or the other. In short, we’re seeing something that has been in very short supply these days; we’re seeing statesmanship out of Washington.

  • Barbara

    It’s getting harder to trust anyone anymore in the W.H. It’s all confusion etc. If we don’t put God first in our country, and trust in him for his guidance we’re lost/ This present leadership has pushed him out of the picture/ With him all things are possible* We need praying people in office and leadership guided by the spirit of God* I believe he works all things for the good to those who love him* Let’s pray for the right people to lead us out of this mess we’re in* I hope Paul Ryan is one of those people * Don’t forget us, the elderly+

  • Scott W

    Except ObamaCare isn’t a modest reform to entitlement programs and the tax code, so taking its repeal/defunding/delay off the table helps how?

    • Joshua Mercer

      Well, his strategy would be to punt on it until there were more votes to delay or defund. Namely after Republicans win more seats in the Senate after the 2014 elections.

  • Roseanne Hunt

    Paul Ryan has NO concern for the poor, the disabled… ANYONE, except the wealthy. So, if you are wealthy by all means stick with Paul Ryan.

    • Joshua Mercer

      So is that why he is calling for means testing of Medicare? Ryan’s plan calls for wealthier senior citizens to *pay more* money into Medicare.

  • Will

    We do need cooperation in Washinton. It is a lot easier to write an opinion piece than to provide details that the country, and its policians, can agree on. No mention of defense cuts or tax increases. Just significant changes (cuts) to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other “entitlement” programs. That sounds like the Ryan budget of a few years ago that went nowhere.

  • Bob

    Ryan again oriving he is si far better than Obama or Biden.

  • MLSouth

    Someone with a brain!! Wow, you don’t see that in Washington. This great man should be running our country, or close to it. Old blue eyes, once again showing that you need to put the country’s best interest FIRST before any political gain. Isn’t that what our elected officials are supposed to do?



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