Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rep. Ryan's Marker

Center-left blogger Mickey Kaus is probably right when he says that the Ryan Budget Plan is "near-suicidal." His line is that voters like Medicare and will feel that the Ryan replacement will offer them less security that Medicare. Maybe he is right, although I'd say that the current Medicare setup is as secure as a wad of $100 bills sitting on a bar.

But the point of the Ryan Budget Plan is not to be a blueprint for action. It is a marker. Democrats will rail against it and demagogue it and howl that it throws grandma into the street right up until the day they pass a version of it and say they invented it.

After all, we've already seen how this kind of politics works. Democrats railed against the main features of the Bush War on Terror--the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iraq, military tribunals--insisting they were fascist and violations of civil rights right up until the moment the Obama administration folded them into its own security policy. The fact is that Democrats have a delusional foreign policy, keyed off their lefty base, and only putting Democrats in power and forcing them to confront reality makes Democratic politicians get away from the lefty narrative and face reality.

On the welfare state we have a similar delusion, the idea that administrative bureaucracies can substitute for the safety net and the affective satisfactions of traditional social life in families, kindred, and associations. But for Democrats the problem is compounded by their electoral politics which regresses to the ancient patron-client form of political life. In Democratic politics you vote for Democrats because they "fight" for you against a cruel oppressive world, securing hard-won benefits for you against the implacable corporate power that would otherwise leave you starving and sick.

The Ryan Budget Plan would turn the corner on the patron-client form of politics and cut out the political middleman for millions of voters. It would impose a middle-class culture on the big social programs and nudge the old helpless-victim caring politician axis away from the center of political life.

Obviously Democrats will resist this plan, right up until grannies are starving in the streets from hyperinflation and a government default. Then Democrats will agree to the Ryan reforms, or son-of-Ryan reforms, or grandson-of-Ryan reforms, and the Ryan approach will suddenly shine with the illumination of liberal approval.

You can see here Ryan Budget Plan here.

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