Thinking over Obama’s speech a bit, I see that the “budget address” was really an excuse to pummel the House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). After all, that was the only thing “new” about the speech. It’s petty and embarrassing for the president to attack a House member, so Obama surrounded his attack on Ryan with a whole lot of fluff. But make no mistake: This was about discrediting the only serious plan out there.
Ryan will respond with remarks tomorrow, but for now he’s released a rather restrained rebuttal. It reads:
When the President reached out to ask us to attend his speech, we were expecting an olive branch. Instead, his speech was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to address our fiscal crisis. What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander-in-chief; we heard a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief.
Last year, in the absence of a serious budget, the President created a Fiscal Commission. He then ignored its recommendations and omitted any of its major proposals from his budget, and now he wants to delegate leadership to yet another commission to solve a problem he refuses to confront.
We need leadership, not a doubling down on the politics of the past. By failing to seriously confront the most predictable economic crisis in our history, this President’s policies are committing our children to a diminished future. We are looking for bipartisan solutions, not partisan rhetoric. When the President is ready to get serious about confronting this challenge, we’ll be here.”
Considering how badly Obama distorted Ryan’s proposal, the budget chairman would have been entitled to call the president out for intentional mistatements (okay, lies) about his plan. But the tone, unlike the president’s, was controlled and magnanimous.
Ryan’s statement was accompanied by a listing of some of the problems with Obama’s speech, including these on the debt commission:
• Runs away from the Fiscal Commission’s recommendations on Social Security — puts forward no specific ideas or even a process to force action.
• Calls for the appointment of another commission, after mostly omitting from his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget any of proposals submitted by the commission he appointed last year . . .
• Endorsed the Fiscal Commission’s ideas on taxes, which specifically called for lower tax rates and a broader base, but then called for higher tax rates. Which is it?
Perhaps the president’s most egregious gimmicks were on health care:
• Instead of proposing structural reforms that would actually reduce health care costs, the President proposed across-the-board cuts to current seniors’care.
• Strictly limits the amount of health care seniors can receive within the existing structure of unsustainable government health care programs.
• Gives more power to unelected bureaucrats in Washington to determine what treatments seniors should or shouldn’t get, against a backdrop of costs that continue to rise.
• Conceded that the relentlessly rising cost of health care is the primary reason why the nation is threatened by debt, and implicitly conceded that his health care law failed to solve the problem.
• Eviscerates the only competitive element anywhere in health-care entitlement programs — the competition amongst Part D prescription-drug plans — which allowed the drug benefit to come in 41 percent under budget.
• Acknowledges that the open-ended financing of Medicaid is a crippling financial burden to both states and the federal government, but explicitly rejected the only solution to this problem, which is to give states the freedom they need to design systems that work for the unique needs of their own populations.
It is worth reading in full.
This confirms two points. First, Ryan is now the leader of the Republican Party and primary combatant against the president on fiscal reform. Second, Obama never, ever should debate Ryan. It would be devastating.