Now comes a test for liberals.
For months it has been their standard fare to attack Republicans for being fiscally unserious. The basis of the charge? The GOP was going after domestic discretionary spending rather than entitlements, which is the real cause of our fiscal crisis. Liberals leveled these charges even after Representative Paul Ryan and Speaker Boehner indicated their FY2012 budget would include entitlement reforms. No matter; the liberals had their talking points and they were sticking to them.
Frank Rich, then of the New York Times, accused Republicans of “slashing federal spending as long as the cuts are quarantined to the small percentage of the budget covering discretionary safety-net programs, education and Big Bird.”
Fareed Zakaria sniffed that the GOP is “fixated by a budget-cutting mentality but refuses to propose entitlement,” preferring a “sledgehammer . . . to a scalpel.”
And in February Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote , “The nation’s debt problem is enormous, but so far President Obama and the lawmakers have tiptoed around the real problems, particularly Medicare. Instead, they’re haggling over the 36 percent of the budget called ‘discretionary spending,’ and particularly the 13 percent known as ‘non-defense discretionary spending.’ ” Most of Milbank’s targets in the column were Republicans. He added, “With Medicare and the other drivers of the debt crisis out of consideration, the lawmakers’ task amounted to sweating the small stuff.”
Now that Republicans have released a budget that tackles entitlements head on, including Medicare and Medicaid, perhaps these commentators and dozens of others like them will work their pens and voices to praise the GOP for doing what they themselves called for doing. If so, good for them. No one should hold his breath, though.
Milbank, for example—a particularly cynical (and shallow) pundit—is already shifting his line of attack. He now complains that Republicans are doing what, a few months ago, he chided them for not doing: curbing entitlements. Here is Milbank today: “Democrats could also argue, as the Congressional Budget Office does, that the proposal to turn Medicare into a private program using voucher-like payments would lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. This would inevitably force more elderly into nursing homes, but Ryan also takes $771 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, about half of which pays for nursing-home care of the elderly. . . . Does Ryan want to see Democrats’ ads on TV saying Republicans would cast poor seniors into the streets?”
Among the many virtues of the Ryan budget is that it will reveal, in fairly stark terms, just how partisan and intellectually dishonest Milbank and other political commentators like him are.