Paul Ryan promises the sequester will not be the last fiscal crisis this year. He pledges the GOP will again use the debt limit to extract more cuts from Obama this summer, and he rejects the White House's proposals to cut entitlements. It didn't have to be this way, Ryan says. "Mitt and I were going to bring to Congress a plan to fix this this year and we were going to launch a charm offensive with Senate Democrats to work with them to do it," he tells The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus. But he and Mitt lost. That fact seems to still be sinking in with Ryan.
Take, for example, his dismissive reference to the White House's proposal to cut Social Security. Obama has endorsed changing (and, largely, lowering) cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security by changing how they're calculated from the traditional consumer price index to a chained consumer price index. It could save $100 billion over 10 years, but it also means smaller payments to retirees over time. A lot of Democrats don't like this, seeing it as potentially just a first step to slashing benefits. When Obama endorsed chained CPI, Politico said his "latest offer to congressional Republicans crosses lines that Democrats have long portrayed as untouchable." Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown called it "terrible," New York Rep. Charlie Rangle called it a "very, very bad idea."
So, not a bad concession, given both Obama and Romney campaigned on protecting Social Security and Medicare, right? In his interview with the Post, Ryan is dismissive: "'Trimming a statistic,' he sniffed of the proposed Social Security tweak, 'is not entitlement reform.'" What would count as entitlement reform to Ryan? Probably some form of privatization. Ryan and Romney campaigned on modest entitlement reform, and lost. But Ryan has a history of refusing to accept losing on this issue. He was a major force behind George W. Bush's push to privatize Social Security in 2005 by allowing people to put some of their payroll deduction into stocks. Ryan's plan wouldn't have saved the government any money, and it was not well-received. Bush later said he regretted it. But Ryan doesn't think Americans rejected his ideas. He thinks Republicans just didn't sell it well. Ryan told The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, "Don't let the engineers run the marketing department."
Other Republicans see the issue a little differently. Take, for example, this "TRUTH BOMB" from Politico's Mike Allen Friday. An anonymous Republican member of Congress says:
"By the way, this notion that Republicans are all eager to reform entitlements -- folks, Democrats have it all wrong. Republicans would love to avoid the issue, politically. ... I love this poll: Tea party folks in Ohio, 'Do you think your Social Security benefits should be reduced given the record debt and deficits?' 85 percent 'no.' ... [T]his is not an issue that anybody wants to take on, politically. It is the third rail of American politics, still. Is it easier? Yeah, probably than it was a couple of decades ago. But not much."