Who could have ever predicted this. Aside from everyone.
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan rediscovered his hatred of large deficits and hit on a solution. No, it does not involve killing the tax reform bill that every reputable study believes will increase the national deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next decade.
Rather, Ryan is now calling for entitlement reform. Which means cuts to the welfare programs and Medicare that the poor and elderly rely on to live with a modicum of dignity.
From The Washington Post:
“We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show. "... Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Cutting entitlements — which should really be called necessities, since they help people who are not worth $5 million, like Paul Ryan is, pay for food and shelter and the skyrocketing medical costs of old age — has been Ryan's career-long goal. He often couches this desire in the language of fiscal responsibility and discipline, which is another way of telling people who rely on these programs they are going to have to take the hit while the wealthy get lower tax rates.
Here is a question that a friendly interviewer like this radio host will never ask Ryan. If the U.S. is piling on debt, wouldn't it have made more sense to cut spending first, and then determine just how much of a tax cut the government could afford to give to the people? What sense does it make to prioritize cutting revenues if we have, as conservatives like to say, a spending problem? Isn't cutting taxes first sort of like serving dessert before the vegetable course?
Ryan also claimed he is convincing Donald Trump, who swore during the campaign he would not touch Medicare or other entitlements, of the need for cuts after all. Of course. Trump does not understand the issues, so if you can convince him that entitlement cuts will somehow make him look good, he'll be all in.
Everyone with a pulse has been predicting that cutting entitlements would be the next step in the Republican economic plan. It was so obvious that Democratic senators were screaming about it on the floor during the debate over the tax reform bill last week. It was so obvious that Bernie Sanders asked Republicans to guarantee him that they would not turn around and cut Medicare and Social Security once the bill passed.
None of them could. Because none of them care.