As I write today, there are Republicans out there willing, in general terms, to talk about scaling back entitlements. They’re the “honesty caucus,” and, of course, are getting savaged by members of the “dishonesty caucus,” e.g. see Charlie Crist today. We’re seeing the first round of next year’s budget battle right now. If Democrats can demonstrably take down a Republican or two on Social Security–a Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, or Ron Johnson–it’ll make Republicans that much more nervous about touching entitlements if they take the House. This is ticklish business and it’s why the position of Republican budget-cutters at the federal level is much more inherently difficult than that of a Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie, commendable though those governors are. To reduce the federal government, Republicans have to take on sacrosanct programs that the public doesn’t naturally trust them to handle, against a tide of demagoguery that has a nearly perfect track record of working in the past. It makes the honesty of Rand Paul et al all the more praiseworthy.