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Right Turn
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/24/2011

Free advice to Republican candidates on entitlements

Yesterday I asked readers what they would advise the Republican presidential contenders to say about entitlement reform. Hbargassoc had the most succinct answer: “There is only one good statement to make: To endorse Paul Ryan’s program of entitlement reform, and when elected to strive to improve and implement it.” But on the off chance candidates might want to put their own imprint on their policy proposals, NYJA has a more comprehensive approach:

The attachment of the American people — Republican, Democrat, and everything in between — to entitlements is quite like heroin addiction, with the Democrats as the all-too-willing pusher. Entitlements are killing us, but poll after poll shows that, despite our concern with spending, we’re either unaware that the spending problem is an entitlement problem, or aware but unwilling to get off the stuff to save ourselves.
All that in mind, I think something of a middle ground is called for. I think candidates should have faith that the American people aren’t too far gone, and that if they have the facts presented to them in a clear, persuasive way (in the way that Paul Ryan can do), they can be convinced that reform is necessary to save their kids, grandkids, and their country. At the same time, I think a candidate would do well to embrace slightly more modest reforms, specifically as regards Medicare, than contained in Ryan’s Path to Prosperity. I think candidates can certainly get behind means-testing, but also think the premium support/public option hybrid described in the Rivlin-Domenici plan [see here] for Medicare might be a good idea to support. You tell seniors, “Hey, you can stick with the government, or you can have approved private insurers compete for your business. Your call. In either case, though, we’re going to cap the growth rate of Medicare benefits, because, fellow Americans, we are doomed otherwise.” . . .
Also, on Social Security reform, why shouldn’t a candidate say this: “Who here thinks Social Security works like this: the government takes part of John Doe’s paycheck out as Social Security and puts it into an account with his name on it. That money sits there, in a locked safe, and waits until John is ready to retire. Once he retires, the government starts to pay him his hard-earned money back. (Hands go up). Well, turns out it’s not like that at all. John’s money goes into a big pot, which Congress then spends on whatever it wants. And it gives the fund only an IOU in return. How do you feel about that?”

Well, candidates could surely do worse than that. In any case, it certainly would be a mistake to duck the issue, thereby letting President Obama off the hook for having failed to lead on the most critical issue of our time. And let’s not forget that one of these GOP candidates may wind up in the White House. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the winner claim a mandate to govern?

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 08/24/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign, Budget

 
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