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Thursday, August 23, 2012

David Brooks, "Ryan’s Biggest Mistake": Or a Wake Up Call for America?

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Ryan’s Biggest Mistake" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/brooks-ryans-biggest-mistake.html), David Brooks would have us know that Paul Ryan's failure to support Simpson-Bowles was an error of epic proportions:

"The Simpson-Bowles plan would have simplified the tax code and lowered rates. It would have capped the size of government. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, it would have brought the federal debt down from 73 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product today, to 67 percent of G.D.P. in 2022."

I agree with Brooks that Simpson-Bowles was better than nothing, but what assurances did we have that by distant 2022 federal debt would indeed have been reduced to 67 percent of G.D.P., particularly given that the cost of Medicare has evolved into a runaway freight train, picking up speed?

Brooks concludes:

"Paul Ryan has a great campaign consciousness, and, when it comes to things like Medicare reform, I agree with him. But when he voted no on the Simpson-Bowles plan he missed the chance to show that he also has a governing consciousness. He missed the chance to do something good for the country, even if it wasn’t the best he or I would wish for."

Is "something" always better than nothing? Is it better to treat a patient with aspirin when surgery is required?

Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the American economy was weaker than had been previously thought and that 9.1 percent unemployment could return by the end of 2013 (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/deeper-recession-imminent-if-congress-doesnt-act-on-fiscal-cliff-cbo-report/2012/08/22/0da7a07a-ec60-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html).

Failing to support Simpson-Bowles was Ryan's biggest mistake? I don't think so. Regardless of November's outcome, Americans will be forced to contend with the knowledge that an economic disaster is lurking around the corner.

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