Calling the Tea Partiers' Bluff

| Fri Feb. 12, 2010 1:43 PM EST

Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan — which guts Medicare, slashes Social Security payments, taxes health insurance, and makes deep cuts in every other area of the federal budget except for national defense — is, as Bruce Bartlett says, "politically ludicrous." But he still thinks it's a useful proposal since it forces conservatives to put their money where their mouths are. Literally:

According to the CBO, under the Ryan plan federal debt as a share of the gross domestic product (GDP) would rise from 61% this year to 100% in the year 2045 before falling to zero in 2080....Ryan achieves this result without any tax increase at all — 100% of the debt reduction comes from lower spending. It is, in short, the budgetary Holy Grail for the tea party crowd.

....In my opinion, support for the Ryan plan must be the minimum requirement for anyone who considers themselves members of the tea party brigade and any politician seeking its endorsement. If those like former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the current darling of the tea party crowd, are unwilling to immediately and unequivocally endorse the Ryan plan or put forward something equally serious and comprehensive, then in my opinion they have no credibility on the budget and no right to oppose the sorts of tax increases that I believe are unavoidable.

....The next time I see pictures of a tea party crowd I will be looking carefully for signs that say "Abolish Medicare," "Raise the Retirement Age" and "Support the Ryan Plan!" I won't hold my breath waiting.

Bruce is right. If Axiom I is "Taxes must not go up" and Axiom II is "The budget must be balanced," then Ryan's plan is pretty much unavoidable. For a long time conservatives have accepted Axiom I but not Axiom II, and this has been a huge electoral winner for them. But now they all say they accept Axiom II too. Paul Ryan is calling their bluff.