Treat Paul Ryan, Democratic plans as starting points to negotiations

I heard a lot of familiar blather out there after Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled his latest plan to fix the nation’s long-term budget problems and provide an alternative to the sequester.

Rep. Paul Ryan visiting Utah during the presidential campaign.

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post said the plan “ought to be burned.”

Really? This is how we negotiate toward a compromise?

I’m guessing Ryan realizes his plan, “The Path to Prosperity,” has no chance of becoming law in its present form. No, I’m sure of it. He said as much in his press conference. This is meant to be the starting point in a negotiated settlement, just as his earlier plans were meant to be.

Finally, the Democrats are unveiling a plan of their own, too. Until now, it seems Ryan has been a lone wolf, presenting his plans and getting little in return from the other side except banshee-like cries of how awful it is.

Ryan’s plan would completely repeal Obamacare. He knows that isn’t going to happen. It’s a nod to his constituency and an effort to show people how much health care reform is going to cost the American people in the long run.

And yes, other parts of it are unrealistic, or perhaps undesirable, too.

The Democrats’ plan claims to save $1.85 trillion over 10 years by cutting spending and raising taxes, and by repealing much of what was cut by sequestration. It’s not clear the party wants to approach entitlement or tax reform at all, or if it wants to go on pretending it can balance the budget without those things.

It’s significant that the Democratic plan was drafted by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The White House indicated the president might not agree with all aspects of it.

So where is his plan? What kind of president confronts a crisis, such as the automatic, nonsensical spending cuts currently underway, and does not present a workable solution of his own?

“This is an invitation. Show us how to balance the budget,” Ryan said. “If you don’t like the way we’re proposing to balance our budget, how do you propose to balance the budget?”

If the nation is going to chart a logical course toward fiscal responsibility, it must start with each side staking a realistic claim, even if it’s slathered in unwinnable ideology, as both these plans are. Then the two sides have to come together, find common ground and make acceptable compromises.

You can’t accomplish the goal without being provocative. Ryan says his plan would cut $4.6 trillion by 2023, decreasing the net spending from $46 trillion to only $41 trillion over 10 years. He would reform the tax code into two brackets, one at 10 percent and the other at 25 percent, cut Medicare and reduce federal pensions.

Critics seemed to be treating Ryan’s plan as a final, best offer. Maybe now, with two plans on the table, the real work can begin. Frankly, it’s about time.

If you were buying a car and the salesman laughed and scoffed at every offer you made without ever offering a counter, you probably wouldn’t reach a deal.

No wonder people say they wouldn’t buy a used car from Washington politicians.

Categories: Washington

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

One comment

  1. 10cc

    I hope the two sides can negotiate, but I’m increasingly pessimistic they can pound something out (violent imagery intended) without inflicting additional collateral damage on the nation.

    What we’re seeing is like you or I going to car dealership and offering $20,000 off the sticker price on a car, and then taking the time to tell the dealer just how poor his product is, how it isn’t worth what people pay for a bicycle, how it’s an embarrassment to the community, etc. The waters are getting so poisoned it’s exacerbating the already existing bad taste throughout the nation.

    The British have had particularly disappointing results with their own drive toward austerity, with a triple-dip recession now poised to follow a credit downgrade, which the cuts in government spending were specifically intended to avoid.

    The bond markets are recognizing that the UK’s economy is contracting, a far cry from the confidence from the private sector the conservative government’s heavy cutting of government spending was supposed to inspire.

    As for our own choir of doomsayers about public spending, where is the hyper-inflation? Where are the sky-high interest rates?

    Given this reality, and based on the track records of prognostication from the different schools of economic thought, it appears Ryan seeks to provoke another Great Recession to inflict longer term damage on Democrats.

    How are Obama and the Democrats supposed to engage that position?

    Obama already had to deal with two GOP Senators publicly announcing their #1 priority was to make him a one term president. Alas, Obama was re-elected, and Mitch McConnell remains as the GOP Minority Leader, yet McConnell took the time to call Obama after election day to remind him that Obama carried just 4 out of 120 counties in his state.

    And then people wonder why relations are so poor in DC, and the sides are so far apart. I would say the odds are that we go through a government shutdown rather than a well-thought out compromise before the last minute.

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