The Ryan and Orszag proposals represent competing visions of how the United States deals with our fiscal dilemma. Under Congressman Ryan’s vision, we try to live within our projected revenues, leave our children with tax burdens comparable to our own, and constrain our spending appetites accordingly. On the Social Security side, this means slowing the growth of benefits -- which would still grow faster than inflation.
Under the alternative vision espoused by Orszag, we would impose on younger generations higher payroll tax rates, tax a higher fraction of national wages, and levy an additional 3% benefit-less surcharge, thereby reducing economic growth and individual saving.
The contest between the Ryan and Orszag visions for Social Security is the fundamental contest between constraining our spending appetites and raising taxes to fuel persistently higher costs. It mirrors the gap between the Obama Administration’s larger fiscal policies, and the views of American voters on the political center and on the right.
This editorial is a useful reminder that the Roadmap for America's Future not only tackles Medicare and Medicaid spending; it drastically overhauls Social Security and tax policy, as well. You can say Ryan's plan is ambitious -- perhaps too ambitious! But you can't say it isn't a serious attempt to save a sinking ship.
The Democrats haven't come forward with their own plan to eliminate America's growing public debt because the public would most likely reject their solutions -- some toxic combination of middle-class tax hikes and inflation -- out of hand. But it's also folly for the Democrats to believe that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson will provide cover for massive changes to American tax policy, implemented by a lame-duck Congress after a midterm election in which the majority is likely to get a thumpin'. True, the public may not yet be ready to embrace the tough policies required to bring America's entitlements under control. But that same public certainly does not want to worsen the outlook by creating new entitlements, adding more debt, and increasing to the tax burden.