The Right Panics

That's all I can really glean from this hysterical WSJ editorial. They claim that the Ryan plan is not "some radical departure from American norms." But severing public responsibility for seniors' healthcare with a lump sum to buy private insurance (that is designed not to keep pace with healthcare inflation) surely is a radical departure from the post-1965 norm. It may be necessary but it sure is a radical reframing of the post-'65 social compact. Yes, they're right that Obama essentially sets up a rationing board of experts to dictate what you can and cannot get under Medicare; but that's because he is trying to work within the current system, rather than abolishing it, and cutting healthcare costs rather than simply transferring them. This is a weaker point:

Mr. Obama sought more tax-hike cover under his deficit commission, seeming to embrace its proposal to limit tax deductions and other loopholes. But the commission wanted to do so in order to lower rates for a more efficient and competitive code with a broader base. Mr. Obama wants to pocket the tax increase and devote the revenues to deficit reduction and therefore more spending. So that's three significant tax increases—via higher top brackets, the tax hikes in ObamaCare and fewer tax deductions.

Note the sleight of hand: "deficit reduction and therefore more spending." That's an ideological reach. Finding a way to raise revenues by reforming the tax code is easily the least painful way of raising revenues. Devoting more of this to debt reduction than lower taxes does not inherently mean more spending. This Krauthammer outburst reveals the GOP's nervousness that they may have overplayed their hand:

“I thought it was a disgrace. I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest, outside the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you are allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor."

But did he expect a Democratic president to treat the effective abolition of Medicare and Medicaid as if it were just a debating point? What Obama did was what any Democratic president would do: contrast the continuation and intensification of huge cuts in taxes for the haves with newly stringent limits on healthcare for the have-nots. If Republicans were in the same position, they'd be claiming imminent death for every senior in America. And telling us it's all part of a "robust" (Cheney's favorite word) debate.