It’s the kind of reform that Congressman Paul Ryan has proposed in his Roadmap. Indeed, it’s the essential centerpiece of any serious conservative effort to reform the nation’s entitlement programs and bring federal commitments over the long run in line with a rate of taxation that promotes strong economic growth.
Fortunately, and to their everlasting credit, most of today’s fiscally conservative candidates are campaigning hard on repealing Obamacare, and many have also taken the courageous step of endorsing, in broad terms, the need for fundamental reform of both Social Security and the health-entitlement programs. They aren’t shying away from the challenge, at least not yet.
But the climb will get much steeper once they get to Washington. For starters, the president wields a veto pen, which means repeal and replacement is likely to be a multi-year endeavor, not a short-term fix. Moreover, the entire Washington establishment, including the national media, will be lined up against them. When things look hopeless, it will be tempting to turn full attention and energy to lower hanging fruit.
But that would be a mistake. Yes, it’s crucial to rein in government excesses wherever they exist. But if Obamacare is allowed to stand, the fight over the size and reach of the federal government will have been lost. Repeal and replacement is a must, no matter how hard or long the journey. The new troops coming to Washington must see it that way, and see themselves as laying the crucial foundation for a final victory when the time is ripe.
— James C. Capretta is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004.