The 'Other' Ryan Plan
A funny thing happened on the way to saving Western civilization ... it could all come down to Paul Ryan.
Until Anthony Weiner's bizarre story came to light, there was surely no Washington politician more in the news than the Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Interestingly, this has been part of a counterintuitive design by the Democratic Party and the White House.
The strategy is elegant and ironic: do absolutely nothing about the fiscal train wreck that is the U.S. federal budget deficit/debt, set a trap for Republicans, shamelessly sit back while they wander in, mercilessly twist, distort and demagogue whatever they come up with, and then (they hope) win big in 2012.
So far, the plan appears to be working, especially the merciless demagoguery part. The Ryan proposal to reform Medicare provides a striking example. A Google search using the terms "Ryan Plan Medicare" turns up 22 million hits. The first few pages are a veritable PR gold mine for the Democrat strategists, displaying articles like: "How the Ryan Plan Will Destroy Medicare," and "Senate Dems Say No to Changing Medicare." It's true. The same people that unilaterally passed Obamacare, including its $500 million "appropriation" from the current Medicare fund, will look into whatever camera they can find to say that Paul Ryan wants to change Medicare as we know it.
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether this scheme will work as an electoral strategy for 2012. Meanwhile, nowadays it takes a House Budget Committee Chairman with a deep understanding of the unique role of the United States in ensuring the future of Western civilization, to recognize the connection between economics and national security.
That's what it looks like, anyway, based on a truly compelling foreign policy speech recently given by Paul Ryan to the Alexander Hamilton Society. Every American (and lots of non-Americans) should run, not walk, to read the speech. Why? First, when a rising star and the Republican party's best agitator for fiscal responsibility gives a major foreign policy address, just as the 2012 Republican presidential field is taking shape, there's a reasonable chance that the speech has been given by this cycle's Republican nominee, if not by the future POTUS. That alone makes the speech noteworthy.
The far more important reason to take a close look at the speech is its unmistakably clear thesis: that "our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power." Moreover, the consequences of such a choice are too unthinkable to fathom. Ryan reaches this conclusion because he unabashedly embraces American Exceptionalism and believes unapologetically that "a world without U.S. leadership would be a more chaotic place, a place where we have less influence, where Western values and culture would be increasingly under siege, and a place where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities."
As simple and as commonsensical as these notions likely are for the vast majority of Americans, today's left bristles at them entirely. By and large, the left is unconcerned about the national debts/deficits and many believe both need to be driven far higher. The left largely rejects the notion of American Exceptionalism, does not believe that America has been a force for good in the world, views Western civilization primarily through the eyes of empire, inequality and oppression, and is more than comfortable "managing" decline so that the United States is reduced to merely one of many among equals (or worse) in the world.
Ultimately, this is where the left and the rest hopelessly part ways. The left views ceaselessly increasing national deficit and debt, American decline, and the erosion of Western values as inevitable and ultimately praiseworthy developments. The rest of us look at these things as choices that we can either make or not; and clearly believe we should not.
"Take a moment," Ryan urges in his speech and so do I now, "and imagine a world led by China or by Russia." I would add: consider a world in which Islamism and sharia law are the dominant cultural, political and economic forces. In other words, there is quite literally no alternative to U.S. leadership. Either we lead and continue to carry the mantle of Western Civilization and global capitalism, or we guarantee their relegation to the dustbin of history.
In other words, it's not whether we can or can't afford to lead. We must lead and so we must find a way to afford it. This is perhaps the most important reason we need to fix entitlements, fundamentally change the way we budget and spend, and fix the fiscal mess that has been bequeathed us by successive administrations and vastly accelerated by the current one.
The other Ryan Plan, it would appear, is to accomplish all of these things and in so doing save the left from itself, perpetuate an exceptional America, and ensure the future of Western civilization. Not bad, not bad at all.
Dr. R.B.A. Di Muccio is a guest commentator for The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He received his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Southern California.