Summing Up Our Debate

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Yuval and I agree on the need for reform of Medicare and Social Security and probably mostly agree on what reform should look like. We agree as well that Republicans should run on reform in 2012. I’d say we continue to disagree on three points. 1) I think the pro-reform side will have an easier time of it if the argument is being made not only by House members but by a presidential nominee. 2) I don’t think holding a House vote this spring will do much to increase the likelihood that a presidential candidate will take up the cause in 2012. 3) I don’t think that the political upside of a House bill that balances the budget is worth the downside of a bill that cuts the old-age entitlements. I just don’t think that even at moments of relatively intense public concern about deficits, voters weigh the issues that way. Hence the experience of 1995-96. The trouble with this argument, of course, is that point 3 is likely to apply in 2013 even if Republicans win across the board. But understanding the political lift this task is going to require, I still think points 1 and 2 argue for having a presidential candidate take the lead.