Rep. Paul Ryan is often praised for displaying political courage, the courage to actually lay out for Americans what he views as the best way forward for our country.
The logic of this transparency is as follows: everything may not be easy to stomach, but it’s necessary when you’re staring at a $15 trillion and rising national debt. President Barack Obama offers a competing plan and with it a completely different vision, buut his plan continues to add to our deficit and got zero votes in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Ryan plan is fun for conservatives to praise, and the Obama plan is easy for conservatives to target and vise versa. The unfortunate reality is they both are ridiculous and tell a sad story about the state of our political system. I’ll admit my bias; ideologically I am a conservative and am a fan of Paul Ryan and his plan.
I’m glad there are finally some real cuts where they need to be made, namely to Medicare, and we’re finally talking about real tax reform, although the specter of $700 billion worth of unspecified closed tax loopholes raises some eyebrows.
But I also am well aware that the Ryan budget really is an extremist document, and extremist documents never become law.
And if you disagree that it’s extremist, consider this: the Ryan budget cuts programs that the most vulnerable Americans rely on and then, after a while, massive cuts to Medicare kick in that fundamentally alter it. All of this is used to pay for massive tax cuts for corporations and the richest Americans. I think this is unfair spin from the left, but it’s the reality of the way the plan is portrayed.
I also know in the current toxic political environment where an attempt to curb health care costs and make sure people have coverage becomes a political football, any ideologically extreme legislation simply makes things worse. Legislation always ends up in the middle, but nobody on Capitol Hill seems to have any interest in middle ground.
Compromise seems to be a dirty word in D.C. these days. This was on display when only 38 representatives voted for a budget that was modeled after the Simpson-Bowles commission’s proposal. It would cut the deficit by around five trillion dollars over the next 10 years through a perfectly reasonable mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. That is the direction that a country $15 trillion dollars in debt should be moving toward, not away from.
So while Ryan’s proposal may look courageous, it really isn’t. Because he knows it will never be law. Everyone, including Ryan knows revenue increases will be a part of any deficit reduction package. All proposals like the Ryan plan do is fire up the “don’t tread on me” base and divide us even further.
We don’t need more division; our problems are too great for that. The Republican Conference on Capitol Hill is so extremely against any necessary tax increases, and the Democratic Caucus is so extremely anti-necessary cuts.
Based on the debt ceiling fight, both are 100 percent willing to take their ball, go home and take our country off of a cliff. A centrist path is where we will have to end up; there is no other possibility. But it seems our politicians don’t realize this.
That’s why movements like No Labels, which is made up of current and past political professionals and concerned citizens who see the problems with the system and want to make some real changes, are so important.
They work to bring issues into the public consciousness the general public doesn’t understand, but if they did, would demand be changed, issues like filibuster reform and ending ridiculous pledges.
Polarization is here to stay, and deal making seems to be dead, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill saved social security. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich produced balanced budgets.
They didn’t cut deals because they agreed on everything. They did it because it was what was good for the country, and, in the end, that’s what politics should be about.
The third way is the only way for our country to move forward, we just need more leaders who are willing to admit this truth.