The Corner

Entitlement Politics, Again

Bill Kristol is the latest conservative commentator to insist that the Republicans have to take on entitlements in their forthcoming budget resolution to be “serious”: “Leaving entitlements on cruise control is not a serious position for an aspiring governing party—especially one that aspires to reduce the deficit and restore our fiscal solvency. Surely Speaker John Boehner realizes that. Surely the 87 House freshmen do. Will they insist on a serious GOP budget?”

Whether entitlements stay on cruise control is not really the question in dispute, since they are going to do so regardless of what the House budget resolution says. What Bill is really saying is that House Republicans should go on record supporting specific entitlement reforms even though the Senate won’t go along and even though the resolution wouldn’t actually reform entitlements even if the Senate did go along. That’s an odd test of seriousness.

But Bill’s not the only conservative setting quirky standards these days. A recent editorial for the Weekly Standard by Matthew Continetti piles up farfetched assertions—for example, we are supposed to find it plausible that “a good faith effort” by Republicans might “persuade [Obama] to change his mind” about entitlement reform—before concluding thus: “What would it mean, after all, if the Tea Partying GOP House shied away from attempting to address federal spending in all its particulars—discretionary and nondiscretionary?

“Why, it would mean failure.”

Really? Matt is saying that if this Congress succeeds in repealing Obamacare, cutting discretionary spending, capping Medicaid and block-granting it to the states, passing a law blocking bailouts of state governments, reforming the tax code, and privatizing Fannie and Freddie—if, in short, it amasses a record of conservative achievement unparalleled since at least the late 1940s—it should still be judged a “failure” because it failed to take a stand on Medicare in a budget resolution: a stand that almost no Republican took in the campaign, that Republicans have done nothing to prepare people for, and that no survey of tea partiers, let alone the country at large, finds strong support for. I can’t agree.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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