Rep. Paul Ryan has issued a plan for returning this country to fiscal sanity, and it includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The Wisconsin lawmaker’s proposal would slash about $5 trillion in spending over the next decade, making it by far the most intensive plan presented to date to try to deal with the country’s unsustainable spending practices. But predictably, potential presidential candidates have had little to say, recognizing the political volatility of cutting entitlement programs that people have come to rely on. Some have praised Ryan for coming forward with a package and acknowledge that it could be a good starting point for dealing with runaway entitlements; others have remained silent.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget director, stood out from the pack with strong support for a plan he called "the first serious proposal produced by either party to deal with the overriding issue of our time." In a statement printed by major national newspapers he added: "Anyone criticizing this plan without offering a specific and equally bold program of his own has failed in the public duty to be honest and clear with Americans about the gravest danger we are facing together." More common were nebulous statements such as the one made by Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachman, who said, “It is time to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path.” That’s about as vanilla as statements come.
Ryan’s plan will certainly be controversial, for it will change some aspects of health care coverage. Any proposals affecting Social Security will be even more divisive. But every credible economic expert agrees that something has got to be done about spending, and nothing serious can be done with addressing the entitlements. Ryan has given us a starting point; it’s up to others in Washington to stop ducking the issues and make some hard decisions.