Ryan: Is his budget plan ‘extremist’?

Paul Ryan's budget and vision of a downsized government are now central issues in the election.

It’s official: “Compassionate conservatism is dead,” said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. By picking House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has surrendered to the Tea Party/Rush Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party, entrusting his budget and fiscal policy to a PowerPoint-wielding Young Gun who’s become the GOP’s ideological leader in Congress. Clean-cut, relentlessly fit, with “an Irish altar boy’s widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes,” Ryan may be “the cutest package cruelty ever came in.” His “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint would give massive tax breaks to the wealthy, said Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Washington Post, while forcing those on food stamps, Medicaid, and other social-service programs to absorb a stunning 60 percent of his spending cuts. He’d help pay for tax cuts for millionaires like Romney by turning Medicare into a voucher program that puts seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies. It’s a thoroughly heartless vision, but exactly what you’d expect from a man who says he was inspired to enter politics by libertarian heroine Ayn Rand, who praised selfishness as a virtue, and disdained the useless “parasites” and “moochers” who live off successful capitalists’ tax dollars.

Ryan is no radical, said Michael Gerson in WashingtonPost.com, and he frightens liberals because his vision of government is so persuasive. A true budget and policy wonk, he’s developed a detailed, “thoroughly modern conservative approach to governing”—one that will shrink our Leviathan government, stimulate economic growth, and pull the country out of the ditch. Democrats insist Ryan wants to do away with Medicare, said Avik Roy in Forbes.com, but it just isn’t true. His latest budget—the one Romney endorsed—not only keeps Medicare as it is for everyone currently over 55, but gives future seniors the option of either staying in Medicare or switching to the new voucher system.

What that means, however, is that Ryan would do nothing to curb Medicare spending for a full decade, said Matt Miller in The Washington Post.Meanwhile, his tax cuts—which would be added to the Bush tax cuts—would balloon the deficit by another $6 trillion in the same period. In the rosiest of scenarios, his plan doesn’t balance the budget until 2030 so, please, let’s not call Ryan “a fiscal conservative,” “serious,” or “a truth-teller.” The man’s a supply-side zealot who would shred the social safety net to put more money in the pockets of the very rich. On social issues, Ryan’s even more extreme, said Michelle Goldberg in TheDailyBeast.com, with a voting record indistinguishable from that of the rabid Rep. Michele Bachmann. Ryan would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and co-sponsored a bill that defined fertilized eggs as human beings. Ultimately, Ryan’s “hard-right positions on social issues” may end up alienating as many voters as his budget plans.

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Let the voters decide if Ryan’s an extremist, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Now that he’s “front and center,” people will find he’s fearless, has total mastery of the policy choices facing us, and possesses a “sunny demeanor” like that of Ronald Reagan, whom liberals also once denounced as a radical. Still, Romney has taken “an enormous risk” by tying his fate to Ryan’s vision of a downsized government, said Molly Ball in TheAtlantic.com. “But the choice carries one big advantage: The Ryan budget’s most credible defender will be on stage with Romney, ready and willing to take the heat.”

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