Budget Math

Robert Samuelson makes a true but politically unpalatable point: people who are now elderly will have to make some sacrifices in their retirement benefits. Yes the elderly vote and are often represented as being political untouchables. But you can’t outvote arithmetic and I would hope that making a sacrifice to benefit your children and grandchilren wouldn’t be DOA as a political message.

He makes a point about Paul Ryan that I think captures many people’s frustration with politicians:

There are two Ryans: what I call the good Ryan and the bad Ryan. Probably more than anyone in Washington, the good Ryan has highlighted long-term deficits’ potential harm to our children and grandchildren. The bad Ryan has fashioned an unrealistic and undesirable budget by trying to accommodate both liberal dogma (don’t cut Social Security and Medicare benefits) and conservative dogma (don’t raise taxes). Any sensible plan must do both.

A politician can seem smart and engaged and then, for political reasons, do something so frustrating that it seems impossible to support them or feel inspired. Yes, you’ll never agree with anyone all of the time, but it’s hard to be inspired by people who seem to take such joy in cynical manoeuvres. I’m still not sure why anyone thinks Ryan’s budget was anything other than a political statement. It did seem to work at getting him the VP nomination.

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