"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan - An Unfair Comparison

Two key leaders for Republican House members moving forward are representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.   Here is Cantor in the introduction to his manifesto, "Delivering on Our Commitment":

In thinking about and preparing this plan, I found myself guided by one simple proposition which I believe will be instructive for our efforts over the next two years: "Are my efforts addressing job creation and the economy; are they reducing spending; and are they shrinking the size of the Federal Government while increasing and protecting liberty? If not, why am I doing it? Why are WE doing it?"
I think this is just about right.   But Cantor's manifesto is strikingly vague on the most important task for American governance going forward -- entitlement reform:

As a Conference, I believe that we should immediately start a conversation with the nation about the kind of entitlement changes necessary for us to keep the promises made to seniors while meeting the obligations made to young workers and our children. We must outline our proposals, encourage the minority party (and the President) to offer their own, and have a serious discussion about the impact of each alternative. Our efforts will set the stage for concrete action.
That seems like Cantor's trying real hard not to use any proper nouns -- he's trying not to say the obvious tangible things that any responsible actuary would tell you about Social Security like, for instance, you have to (a) means test, at least at the very high income levels, Social Security and Medicare for current recipients with a sliding scale of means testing going forward for future recipients at lower income levels; (b) increase the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare eligibility; (c) reduce benefits across the board; and (d) provide a way for younger workers to finance their own retirements outside of Social Security using some of what they pay in Social Security taxes now.  It's too political -- it's like he's so afraid of saying the wrong thing that would come back to bite him in some future political ad, that he says nothing at all.
Cantor will make a good majority  leader, I think, but I was underwhelmed with the quality of ideas in his paper.  You can read the whole thing here.  

Ryan's Road Map for America's Future, by contrast, provides quite concrete action-steps.   For instance, here is Ryan on the need to modernize the Social Security retirement age:

When Social Security was enacted, the average life expectancy for men in America was 60 years; for women it was 64. Today, average life expectancy has increased to 75 years for men and 80 years for women (2007 figures). Life expectancies are expected to continue lengthening throughout the century. Given these facts, and the choice among many Americans to work additional years, this proposal extends the gradual increase in the retirement age, from 65 to 67, occurring under existing policies, and speeds it up by 1 year. Once the current-law retirement age reaches 67 in 2026, this proposal continues its progression in line with expected increases in life expectancy. This will have the effect of increasing the retirement age by 1 month every 2 years. The retirement age will gradually increase until it reaches 70 in the next century.
That's more like it.  We're grown ups; we can take the facts and real solutions.  

This may be an unfair comparison, based on two documents published for very different reasons.  But it would seem to me that while Cantor should be the leader of young Conservatives, Ryan should be the idea man.  They'd make a nice team. 


I am admittedly a big Paul Ryan fan.   The reason is that he ranks high on the "no bullshit" scale... maybe a 9.5 out of 10.   Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, of course, is an eleven.

As in, eleven out of freakin' ten:

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