Everybody in politics knows that federal spending is unsustainable: ending earmarks, eliminating waste, cutting non-defense discretionary spending won’t make more difference than baling out a sinking ship with a teacup. Drastic action is called for. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have to be cut back or they’ll bankrupt the nation.
But our political leaders run from the problem. In the debate last year over health care reform, Republicans accused proponents of wanting to ration health care, and the Democrats, instead of saying, “Yes, it’s rationed now and we’ll have to ration it a lot more,” denied and denied. “Not us!”
Now come three prominent Republicans to speak truth to power—to the voting public.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) grabbed the third rail of American politics when he told an American Enterprise Institute audience, “You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it. And I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was even bolder—and more comprehensive—in a thoughtful speech to CPAC ( the Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington. He told the right wing audience that his own party hasn’t tackled the problem, dealing instead with trifles: “Talking much more about [earmarks], or ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,’ trivializes what needs to be done and misleads our fellow citizens to believe that easy answers are available.” Instead Daniels proposed cutting defense, and radically changing Social Security and Medicare, maintaining them for current and soon-to-be recipients but designing completely new plans for the people who come later.
And today Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the pivotal House Budget Committee, told Politico that American prosperity depends on comprehensive reform of federal entitlements, including Medicare and Medicaid.
Could this mark the beginning of serious work, rather than cheap grandstanding, on the long-term financial clouds over America’s future? Let’s see what happens to these three who dared to speak truth. Will it cost them their job, like Sam Goldwyn’s truth-telling underling? Stay tuned.
*Sam Goldwyn, legendary Hollywood impresario, once said “I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job.”
Tags: American Enterprise Institute, and abuse, Chris Christie, Conservative Political Action Conference, earmarks, ethics, federal entitlements, federal spending, fraud, health care rationing, health care reform, House Budget Committee, Medicaid, Medicare, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Politico, Republicans, retirement age, Sam Goldwyn Awards, Social Security, third rail, truth to power, waste