Defending Ryan, Up to a Point

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National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru writes a level-headed and intellectually honest response to Paul Ryan’s critics on the left. He offers some useful food for thought on the policy details, including a reminder that Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform, which involved a shift to block grants, prompted dire warnings similar to those aimed at Ryan’s proposed block-granting of Medicaid. But here’s where, I think, Ponnuru makes clear that liberal opposition to Ryan’s plan really isn’t–and shouldn’t be–about differences over number-crunching and debatable assumptions about the future: 

[Dana] Milbank also suggests, as many other commentators have, that if deficit reduction were really Ryan’s primary concern he would raise taxes. But deficit reduction isn’t Ryan’s stated primary concern: American prosperity is. That’s why he calls his plan “the path to prosperity.” He doesn’t want to raise taxes, because he believes doing so would at best address his secondary concern at the expense of his primary one.

In other words, even one of Ryan’s main defenders admits that the plan is only secondarily a matter of deficit reduction. Now, obviously no one is against prosperity. But liberals and conservatives tend to have vastly different ideas about how to achieve and share it, and that, ultimately, is the rub here.