The People vs. Paul Ryan
The GOP budget deserves to prevail; it won’t.


Kevin D. Williamson

Fiscal responsibility is a tough sell, but there is some low-hanging fruit. “Waste, fraud, and abuse” is generally the last refuge of a fiscal scoundrel, but there is an important exception to that rule: Medicare and Medicaid fraud, which by some estimates runs as much as $100 billion a year, possibly more. Federal auditors have found that the federal government’s data-sharing network intended to prevent Medicaid fraud is an incompetently run mess, rather like the Obamacare website. It is no slight to Paul Ryan to believe that any attempt on his part to explain to the American public that lower deficits today should lead to reduced interest rates sometime in the future and therefore stronger economic growth that subsequently contributes to what the CBO projects will be . . . Go ahead and take a moment to imagine the dead-eyed stare of those halfwits who twice pulled the lever for Barack Obama at this point in the conversation. As Adlai Stevenson observed, it’s not enough to have all thinking people behind you—you need a majority. “These bastards are stealing from us” is probably a more effective way to open up the entitlement-reform debate, and possibly to take down a few Democrat-leaning bag men, too. (You think that $120 million in Medicare fraud in Detroit is lining any Republican pockets? My personal favorite: the California scam in which people were paid $5 to attend sham addiction classes and then used the money to buy weed while alcoholism counselors were having bottles of Hennessy gift-wrapped for their clients.) And those bastards are indeed stealing from us, so here policy and politics are complementary.  

“We owe the nation a balanced budget,” Representative Ryan said yesterday, “and a path for paying off our debt. This is about leadership, about governing, about showing the country a better way.” He is right, and House Republicans have made good on that obligation. This is a credit to them and to the House Republican leadership, which is too frequently maligned. The American people owe them something in return, that something being taking the opportunity to buck up and act like responsible free adults in a self-governing republic, and get behind a real reform program such as that being offered House Republicans.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The fault here is not Paul Ryan’s any more than the American addiction to government handouts and fat Pentagon contracts is the fault of Rand Paul. The political realities are what they are. What conservatives must moderate is not our policies but our expectations.  

— Kevin D. Williamson is a roving correspondent for National Review and the author, most recently, of The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome.