David Frum

03.14.13

Still Saying No to Ryan 3.0

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I was on Huffington Post Live last evening with James Poulos and Bonnie Kavoussi to discuss the Ryan Plan 3.0. (You can watch the segment below).

As you might have guessed if you read my post yesterday, I'm not a fan of the plan - in 2013 - for a few reasons.

First, and most blindingly obvious, we don't have a debt crisis, and we don't need immediate austerity. With apologies to the gold nutters and fans of classical economics, the best answer to a recession is not to insist on a balanced budget. While Ezra Klein approaches concern trolling in this piece, he gets that the Ryan plan isn't about debt - it's about a major reform of the federal government. Ryan is merely using debt as the vehicle to push this legislation.

Next, we don't have the electoral coalition to take the plan to fruition. This is the approach of a party of the young, upwardly ambitious, and less government-centric. The current GOP coalition can be stereotyped quite simply as the Medicare/Social Security retiree. If there's a plan this crowd would want less, I'm all ears.

Finally, I'm not sure what this plan does for the GOP that a deep breath or two can't similarly accomplish. The GOP, as Ryan knows full well, can't accomplish major reform without the White House. What he also should know full well is it won't be winning back the White House with the plan.

So I'll say it again: if you want to implement serious reform, moderate enough so you can win an election first. We can chat about serious stuff once we are in a position to implement serious things.

As I say at the end of the segment below, I think Paul Ryan has been, on the whole, good for the GOP. This is a discussion we needed to have. And, as even my friends on the left will acknowledge, health care costs must be addressed in the medium and long term. (The sooner, the better.)

The problem is that Ryan's approach is similar to Rand Paul's - we have an endgame in sight, but no viable political means of even getting close. That's not a political strategy. It's a fantasy.

And fantasies don't tend to end particularly well. Most of the time, you're back in your childhood bedroom, staring up at fading posters and wondering when you missed the boat.

Don't be that guy, Congressman Ryan. The GOP needs more.