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The Sweet Spot

When it comes to the Ryan Roadmap, I'm with Ramesh Ponnuru (but then thats where you can usually find me).  The Ryan Roadmap shouldn't be the GOP's economic platform for 2012.  The attack ads practically write themselves, "They'll tax away your employer-provided health insurance, and for when you are older, they'll cut your social security and medicare.  But at least they will get rid of the capital gains tax" 

Ponnuru is right that people will only swallow so much change.  They are also going to want some up-front show of competence from the people who want to reform middle-class entitlements.  How about moving the tax code in a more pro-child, pro-parent, pro-jobs, pro-growth direction or making incremental improvements in the health care market.  Either of those policies would be the biggest federal level conservative policy change since welfare reform.

The key will be to put together a package of policies that are big enough to matter, but digestible enough not to scare people who know that things have to change, but have alot to lose.

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Discussions - 5 Comments

I have been thinking about this and tend to agree with some others I have been reading on this topic of The Ryan Roadmap. I like some of his proposals and liking them know that political compromise will chop them into the digestible. As to the attack ads, even those proposals that I think could not seem more reasonable get squeezed and twisted into fodder for attack ads easily enough. What the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound.

There are aspects of the status quo that people really want to keep. There is also a lot of "the way things used to be" that people miss. People talk to me about missing some way back when politicians seemed to take common sense into account and consider consequences when they created legislation. Maybe that was an illusion, or maybe "how it will play in Peoria" is different because Peoria is different. I think maybe it is not too different, not yet.

Kate, I think that in the long run, some watered down version of the Ryan Roadmap is the best we can reasonably hope for, but I don't like the chances of an in for a penny, in for a pound approach working with the American public when faced with even a competent left-of-center alternative. On the other hand I think that a limited number of reforms that deal with specific issues and confer specific benefits in the context of leaving other things unchanged (for the moment of year(s)).

I also agree that almost any policy proposal can be caricatured, the caricature's relation to reality is also important. That is why many of the despicable attacks on Scott Brown didn't work. I think that in the near future, a combination of social security benefit cuts plus private accounts in social security is political suicide, as is converting medicare into a voucher program.

That still leaves alot of room for positive policy change though - and I'm talking Reagan big.

I think "watered down" conservative is what people thought they saw in McCain and they didn't like that. Maybe it was just that I didn't like it, but I don't think so, really. I heard/saw a lot of complaint and discouragement over that slightly right of centeredness -- it looked neither competent nor trustworthy, apparently.

I don't know what's going to happen with Social Security and Medicare, but it doesn't look pretty. I have six kids and they happen to like me, so I suppose I will neither starve nor be stuck in a national health nursing home when I am really old. I know what you mean about touching benefits as political suicide, but how is the next generation going to pay for what's coming?

Kate, I agree that McCain seemed wishy washy to many conservatives, thought I think that had alot more to do with his history of taking obnoxiously self-righteous stands on the liberal side of issues lie campaign finance reform and amnesty and his cultivation of liberal-leaning news outlets.

I don't think that the faiulure of the McCain campaign is a strike against either an incremental or radical approach to economic policy. It is, at most, an argument against a certain kind of identity politics during an economy-driven election.

McCain's health care reform plan was pretty similar to the Ryan plan but nobody heard about in any great detail except through some Obama ads. I remember that McCain's failure to explain or defend his health care plan used to make me nuts. I would go to NLT and stomp my little digital feet.

But looking at how the Obamacare debate has gone, I'm still frustrated with McCain's failure but I just don't think that the public is ready for a plan that will tax most employer-provided plans out of existence. They may get there someday, but it will be the end of a long series of reforms that smooth the way.

I remember seeing Peter Lawler (who is much smarter than me and cares more about the issue than McCain) try to explain the McCain health care plan to a friendly audience. It was tough because the time was limited and someone raised the question that the tax credit that McCain offered would not be enough to pay for the current level of health benefits that many middle-class people enjoy under the current system. The objection was fair enough but it ignored other likely effects of the McCain plan such as higher take home pay (what the employer pays for your halth care, is, in part, money that you would be getting in cash) and lower health care costs from a more consumer-driven market. I think Lawler and McCain (well, really Lawler, I don't think McCain knew or cared about his own plan) were right, but those last two were hypothetical gains, while in reality, a potential voter was faced wit losing his employer-provided coverage and getting a tax credit that would, at best, buy him inferior coverage.

I fear that if voters faced a constrained choice and had to pick between the Senate version of Obamacare and the Ryan health reform, they would pick the Senate plan. But that still leaves all kinds of incremental steps that can drive down heralth care costs, make low-cost policies more widely available, adopt reinsurance plans that make it easier for people with preexisting conditions to buy health isurance on the individual market, and otherwise make it easier for the country to move to something like the outcome that Ryan outlines

I can agree with that. Still, someone, some politician has got to be out ther pulling political discourse to the Right. We keep complaining about no one effectively expounding and explaining conservtive principles and policies. Somebody as to do it and take the heat.

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