This is Paul Ryan's moment. If national security or social policy were at the center of debate, the Wisconsin congressman wouldn't be nearly as prominent as he is today. But President Obama wants to reshape the American economy and welfare state so that it looks more like a Western European social democracy. And since fiscal policy is Ryan's specialty, he's become the GOP point man when it comes to entitlements and health care. I continue to get emails from readers applauding Ryan's performance at the health care summit a week ago. Type Ryan's name into Google search and the fifth prompt that comes up is "Paul Ryan for President." (Ryan says he won't run in 2012.)
Then there's health care reform. Ryan's deconstruction of the claim that Obamacare reduces the deficit has become a minor YouTube classic. The Wall Street Journal reprints Ryan's remarks in today's paper. Democratic politicians have not bothered to refute Ryan's arguments -- they've left that job to liberal bloggers. But even the Washington Post's Ezra Klein concedes "the 10-year cost of the bill is really only counting six years of operation" and does not question Ryan's $2.3 trillion Obamacare price tag. Klein says, instead, that Ryan "omits the information that's actually relevant for his presentation on cost control and deficit reduction."
Which information? That would be the Congressional Budget Office's conjecture that health care reform could reduce the deficit by as much as a trillion dollars in its second decade of operation. But that estimate was always couched in uncertainty. Here is the CBO:
These longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades. However, the legislation would maintain and put into effect a number of procedures that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.
Those provisions include the "Doc Fix" reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates and the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) which would mandate future reductions in Medicare. "Doc Fix" has never happened. And "the projected longer-term savings for the legislation also assume that the Independent Payment Advisory Board is fairly effective in reducing costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other aspects of the legislation," CBO wrote. You know what happens when you assume! We don't know what will happen tomorrow. How can we say with any certainty what will happen 11 to 20 years from now?