Paul Ryan — Still an Entitlements Reform Crusader?

Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan

U.S.A.-( Concerning Paul Ryan's decision to leave Congress, I am more troubled by its implications for entitlement reform than the impact it may have on the GOP agenda or the November elections.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page said, “Ryan will leave Congress in January with no substantial progress on (reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), few lawmakers interested in picking up the torch, and a clear signal that prospects are dim for any big overhaul in the foreseeable future.”

Entitlement reform is not only the least sexy of all proposed legislation; it is the kiss of death for any would-be Republican reformer because Republicans are already depicted by leftist demagogues as reverse Robin Hoods and curbing federal benefits for the poor and elderly would just “confirm” the slander.

It is tragic that we haven't the maturity to responsibly discuss amending these programs to prevent the inevitable national bankruptcy they guarantee in the absence of reform. Republicans are culpable on this, to be sure, but it's nothing compared with Democrats, who would rather demagogue than breathe.

I have been concerned about these runaway federal programs for decades but became especially interested during the Barack Obama years, when Ryan gained national prominence for making them a national issue — for a while.

This was Ryan at his best — a policy wonk, meticulously crunching the numbers, preparing the position papers explaining their implications and presenting them to Congress and the public in intelligible language. I was encouraged when Mitt Romney chose Ryan as his running mate, because I saw Ryan's potential position as increasing the chances that the country would finally tackle the problem.

Though the details of the math might put some to sleep and experts might disagree on the timetable for our economic destruction, it is indisputable that unless we legislatively reform the programs, the country will swallow itself in debt. Any solution involves some pain, but the longer we delay the greater the pain will be and the more difficult reform will become politically.

Part of the problem is that many have been crying wolf for decades over the looming dangers of federal deficits and the accumulated federal debt. As no catastrophe has ever materialized, it's no wonder the public has been lulled into complacency and disregards the predictions of doom.

It is human nature to focus more on immediate problems than on long-term ones, and Washington's ever increasing demands on the public through onerous taxes and unending regulatory control keep us plenty busy. Endless partisan warfare also militates against soberly addressing this issue.

Some criticize Ryan for dropping the ball on entitlement reform after spending years convincing us that we ignore this issue at our own national peril.

But let's be realistic here. Does anyone think that in this politically hostile, hate-Trump atmosphere fomented by the media and the Democratic Party — with the distractions they spawn over the Russia-collusion myth — Ryan would have had a snowball's chance in Hades of getting to first base on any entitlement reform proposal?

Does that mean Ryan or other Republicans should abandon reform? No. But when you are under relentless fire, you'd better fire back right then, or you won't be around to fight another day.

And it's not just Democratic demagoguery and the unpopularity of reforms that stand in the way of action but also the tyranny of the urgent. Ryan didn't choose the speakership. He even resisted the position. But he eventually relented. It soon became clear that the mood of the country was to work on Trump's agenda, and that did not include entitlement reform. Ryan can be fairly criticized perhaps, along with many others, for the GOP failure on repealing and replacing Obamacare, but if he had dreams of addressing long-term entitlement reform in the short run as speaker under Trump, they would have been just that — dreams.

Federal spending has exceeded 20 percent of the GDP for most of that period. Because federal spending is the problem, that's where our focus should be.
Federal spending has exceeded 20 percent of the GDP for most of that period. Because federal spending is the problem, that's where our focus should be.

The hard, cold fact is that we do have more pressing problems than entitlement reform, and we always will — until we finally bankrupt ourselves. But the political climate has made current attention to such reform almost impossible.

Every year, entitlements will gobble up an increasing percentage of the federal budget, so that in the near future, even draconian cuts in discretionary spending will not put a dent in the federal deficit.

People often lament that democracy contains a poison pill that guarantees its own demise, in that the voting public will vote itself money from the public trough and commit suicide by greed. (Yes, we have a constitutional republic, but our representatives are democratically elected.)

This poison has infected our system in multiple ways — with the redistribution of income, certain people abusing federal power to control others, and the possible bankruptcy of future generations at the behest of irresponsible present generations.

I have no illusions that we're going to make appreciable headway in the near term or that Democrats will ever approach this problem in good faith to allow us to achieve reform by consensus. But because the budgetary doomsday clock is ticking, we don't have the luxury of forever shelving it.

As such, I am just going to be Pollyannaish for a change and humbly propose and pray that after Paul Ryan returns to his family and rejoins the private sector, he carves out time from his new position, whatever it is, to use his expertise and passion on entitlements to crusade for reform and keep that torch burning before it is too late for anything other than extreme reform. If you say that that reform is impossible, then you are necessarily saying the country is headed for destruction — sooner than we imagine. Are you willing to live with that?

About David LimbaughDavid Limbaugh

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is “The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels.” Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at

  • 10 thoughts on “Paul Ryan — Still an Entitlements Reform Crusader?

    1. Entitlements, huh. I hate it everytime I hear that word connected to medicare and soc. Sec. If it was an “entitlement” that would mean that they promised it to me but I did nothing for it. I beg your pardon, for over twenty years I paid in the maximum and I think I could have invested my money for a better return than the “benefit” provides. Throughout the years congress has skimmed the trust fund to the point of near destruction. Yea, Ryan had big plans to screw us out of OUR money paid into the trust fund. Just another example that shows the government can’t manage their way out a wet paper bag.

    2. Paul Ryan reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? What do you think his plan was? Raise the age to receive Social Security to 70? 72? or 75? Raise the Social Security Payroll Tax? Raise the Medicare Payroll Tax? Raise the Medicare Part B Premiums (they just went up 21% in 2018 from $111 to $134)? No Border Wall Paul Ryan…$188 Billion in medicaid for illegal aliens per year?
      What was Paul Ryan’s “reform” Plan for what they call entitlements (lumping in Medicaid which is not an entitlement for anyone who is illegal)?

      1. well.
        the wife and i are both on SS and Medicare.
        i just got a notice from by medicare supplement insurance company yesterday my monthly premium is going up over $32.00 bucks a MONTH starting next month.
        this really PISSES ME OFF, what with the so called COLO raise this year, KNOCKED THAT OUT.
        i wrote Trump but DOUBT HE CAN DO A DAMN THING?

        1. @James H. I am not disputing what you say but it has always been my understanding that an insurance company can only change your premiums during the period of open enrollment which ends Dec.7th of each year. You can not change companies midyear and they can not mess with your cost midyear. You might want to check with your state medicare agency or medicare itself.

    3. Wild Bill

      If I’m not mistaken Paul RINO is supposed to represent Wisconsin .

      His web site says this.

      The 1st District is a land of rolling fields and pastures and a multitude of fine lakes and streams. It is also the home of prime industrial and business centers such as Kenosha, Racine, Janesville, and the greater Milwaukee area,

      The District fully encompasses Walworth, Kenosha, and Racine Counties, and it extends north to include communities in southern Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties.

      1. Because he has proven himself in the past a gun grabbin Statist and now as Wild Bill referenced he’s on to greater riches.

      1. @GMB, Yeah, Ryan was always more loyal to the party than to the citizens of the United States or the Constitution. Now he is going straight to Wall Street, just like hiLIARy did.
        His ability to raise money for the party gave him the power to get re-elected and become speaker. I hope that the Second Amendment Patriots of Michigan are able to get together and elect a better representative than Ryan.

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