The Brooks-Ryan Debate

An interesting debate between Rep. Paul Ryan and conservative columnist David Brooks over the role of government and the intersection of politics and government, and how to best act in the best interests of the American people. I have praised Paul Ryan on this blog, and today I do not take that praise back. He has had the courage to put forward a vision that included specifics as to how he believes a balanced budget should be achieved. And to the surprise of many conservatives he has done that without the Republicans “controlling” Congress. I do not agree with that vision, but at least he has had the courage to put forward a plan. But Ryan has also shown himself to be less of a conciliator than I had hoped, and actually voted against the Deficit Commission plan. And I believe it is for the reasons that some on the left were against the plan. They want solutions based entirely upon their own policy preferences, without compromise. Ryan apparently believes that any increased revenue makes the deficit reduction package a non-starter. He also wanted the Deficit Commission to recommend repeal of the health care package, something that they were not charged with doing. Not a real good sign about moving the ball in the next two years.

New York Times columnist David Brooks debated Ryan at the American Enterprise Institute last week, and Brooks wrote about that encounter in the Times. I come down solidly on the side of Brooks here. Ryan is using the type of rhetoric that makes common ground that much harder to find, using the same old tired nonsense about Obama being in favor of “European style socialism”, and apparently favors utilizing the political process to try to achieve total victory while the country goes bankrupt. From Brooks:

But Ryan and I differed over President Obama and the prospects for compromise in the near term. Ryan believes that the country faces a clearly demarcated choice. The Democratic Party, he argues, believes in creating a European-style cradle-to-grave social welfare state, while the Republicans believe in a free-market opportunity society. There is no overlap between the two visions and very little reason to think they can be reconciled.

I argued that Obama and his aides are liberal or center-left pragmatists and that nothing they have said or written suggests they want to turn the U.S. into Sweden. I continued that Ryan’s sharply polarized vision is not only journalistically inaccurate, it makes compromise and politics impossible. If every concession is regarded as an unprincipled surrender that takes us inexorably farther down the road to serfdom, then nothing will get done and the nation will go bankrupt.

Pretty big differences amongst those that are responsible, and those that are drunk on the kool-aid of tax cuts at all cost. I thought Ryan had a degree of responsibility. I may have been mistaken. The Dana Milbank column on Ryan is here.

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