POLITICS

Dem demagoguery on Ryan reveals Left's shallowness

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Politics,Timothy P. Carney,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Liberals and Democrats these days like to believe that the Right and the Republican Party can be safely ignored. Obama and his allies argue that balance in media can be responsibly eschewed, because conservatives are inherently closed-minded, and the GOP, unlike the Democratic Party, is thoroughly unserious and dishonest.

I wonder if even the most strident and self-satisfied of these liberals -- to wit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman -- can maintain this self-serving posture when Joe Biden debates Paul Ryan this fall.

When Mitt Romney chose Ryan this weekend as his running mate, the liberal freakout was telling. Attacking the budgets Ryan authored, they have trotted out the hoary line that Ryan would "eliminate Medicare," and push grannie off a cliff.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote that Ryan's "plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors."

The "end Medicare as we know it" mantra highlights two ways in which it is the Democratic Party that is deeply unserious.

First, it echoes Obama's mendacity. Second, it reflects the party's irresponsible insistence on looking the other way while driving our government full speed toward the cliff of insolvency.

Ryan's budget would not change anything about Medicare for people over age 54 or anyone younger who wants to go onto traditional Medicare. Ryan's plan, crafted with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden -- who earns gushing praise from self-styled wonks on the Left as a serious legislator (which he is) -- merely allows some people to opt instead for a voucherized version of Medicare.

So Democrats assert that Ryan-Wyden would "end Medicare as we know it," because any modification of any existing policy would "end" that policy "as we know it."

This slippery charge is Team Obama's standard rhetorical tack: Say something clearly misleading, but with one potential interpretation that could be construed as not a lie.

The Democratic alternative to Ryan's Medicare reform, meanwhile is, well, nothing.

Medicare has spent more than it has taken in for the past four years, and this gap will only grow. Not only will the beneficiary-to-worker ratio increase every year thanks to the aging population, but the cost of each beneficiary will also increase faster than GDP, according to Medicare's trustees.

By 2024, the Medicare trust fund (the sum of past surpluses) will be depleted. By 2045, payroll taxes will cover only two-thirds of expected Medicare costs.

Ryan has hammered out a bipartisan proposal to deal with this inevitable insolvency. Democrats have responded with dishonest demagoguery.

Ryan has steered two budgets through the GOP-controlled House. The Democrat-controlled Senate hasn't passed a budget in more than three years.

Democratic idea men like Wyden are ignored, while policy is handed over to pure political hacks like Rahm Emanuel or industry conduits like Max Baucus. Republicans also play politics and special-interest policymaking, but Romney has now put the GOP's idea-man out front.

Which party is the serious one?

For the best description of Democrats' approach to entitlements, switch out one word of the liberals' favorite modern texts: Norm Ornstein's and Thomas Mann's argument that Republicans are the root of all of Washington's problems.

Ornstein and Mann, to pitch their book on the topic, wrote a Washington Post Op-Ed asserting: "The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Change "GOP" to "Democratic Party," and you can understand the assault on Ryan and Republican budgets.

"Ideologically extreme"? Government is spending a peacetime record of 24 percent of GDP (the average since 1947 is less than 20 percent) and Democrats insist on spending more.

"Scornful of compromise"? Again, consider Ryan-Wyden -- a compromise from Ryan's previous budget -- and watch the Left's unadulterated scorn this week.

"Unmoved by conventional understanding of fact, evidence and science"? Mention the Medicare trustees' report to Democrats, and they start accusing you of pushing grannie off the cliff. Math is kryptonite to these people.

"Dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition"? Read anything written by the Keynesian economics guru Krugman and you've got the Left's standard posture today.

Medicare's insolvency is a hard problem. It's politically perilous territory. Paul Ryan has entered this territory with a difficult compromise proposal. Democrats have stood back and lobbed an artillery barrage of demagoguery, because that's all they have.

Well, that and Joe Biden.

Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

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