In Which I Take Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio to Task

I was pleasantly surprise to see a podcast on Ricochet.com featuring two of my favorite political figures on the Right: Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. Of course, like many of you, I immediately downloaded it and listened to it on a recent flight. Made the unfriendly skies seem just a little brighter. [If you’re not a member of Ricochet, consider joining. It’s an interesting site, made more for intellectual discussion than for encouraging action like Redstate is, but interesting and useful nonetheless.]

But… there is something here I must question, nay criticize, and ask a larger question on.

During the podcast, Sen. Rubio said that the reason why we need to enact these urgent spending reforms, and to defeat Obamacare, was so that we can save the entitlement programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Rep. Ryan readily agreed.

“We want to save Medicare and Social Security,” said Rubio. “We don’t want to get rid of them. We want to save these programs.”

Is this really the state of the art for conservative thought in America today? That we are engaged in a fight for the future of the country… so that we can preserve entitlement programs?

Mark Steyn is fond of making the point that big government creates small individuals. The fires of London showed us all the logical end point of the liberal philosophy which says that a proper role of government is to provide payments to its citizens. He’s also fond of pointing out that in European social democracies, there are only two sides of the same liberal party, both claiming to be able to manage the entitlement state a little better than the other guy.

Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are two of our brightest starts; they will be the leaders of the next generation of conservatives. If even these guys have bought into the idea that the federal government should provide healthcare and retirement benefits to its citizens… then all that we are doing is to claim that we’re better managers of the entitlement state, that we are in fact the defenders of the entitlement state.

I can’t accept this. Perhaps Ryan and Rubio are playing hide the ball, and talking about defending Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to slowly transition the nation to a place where individual citizens make arrangements for their own health, retirement, housing, etc. without the government playing any role: even that of giving them money they can invest into health insurance. They are politicians after all, and recognize that they can’t get very far publicly stating that they want to kill entitlements altogether.

Sen. Rubio, I’m sorry but I do want to get rid of those programs. I’m willing to entertain the notion that in the short-term, we have to reform the entitlements simply to avoid bankruptcy, and that politically, eliminating Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid is a non-starter. And half a loaf is better than none at all.

But if conservative ideals of individual liberty coupled to individual responsibility mean anything at all, surely they mean that we do in fact want these programs to get eliminated if we had that kind of power. The socialists rammed through their fondest wish — nationalized healthcare — when they finally got the power in DC. If conservatives should one day get the 60 votes in the Senate, the White House, and the House… should we not be talking about ramming through our fondest wish: the dismantlement of the entitlement state?

We cannot afford the Republican Party to become a “we can manage things better than the Democrats” party. We must have one of the two major parties actually stand up and fight for the idea that Americans do not need a handout from the government, that they can easily arrange for their own healthcare, their own retirement, and their own unemployment benefits if given the power to do so, and the clear awareness that they must do so.


[Crossposted on Ricochet]