And what this document shows is that it's going to be difficult. Regardless of what you think of his tax plans, Paul Ryan has done what liberals keep asking Republicans to do: show us what he'd cut. No, he hasn't gone through the whole budget with a fine toothed comb and given us the exact funding level for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If he had, it would be stupid; even the most powerful legislator cannot tie the hands of those in the future completely. He's offered cuts to domestic discretionary spending and entitlements that would hold the line under 20% of GDP. If Republicans want to shrink the size of government, they're going to have to sign onto Ryan's spending plan, or put forward their own, with equally dramatic trimming.
Paul Ryan has been honest enough to suggest radical changes to entitlements that we know, after the bruising rounds of health care reform, would be politically very unpopular. He hasn't gone out of his way to point out how unpopular they would be, but he hasn't really hidden it, either. The people complaining that he hasn't spent all his time highlighting the least popular aspects of his roadmap are making ridiculous demands that they would never deliver to their own side. They might as well claim that true honesty demands that he campaign in his birthday suit and open every speech with his unvarnished feelings about his mother in law.
Don't get me wrong, there are fair criticisms, and I'm trying to make some of them. But I'd love to see the people kvetching about his plan offer an alternative plan of their own. How much tax revenue would it take to pay for the welfare state that Democrats want us to have? How deeply are they willing to cut military spending? What politically difficult choices are those sniping at Paul Ryan willing to make? His plan may have flaws, but I'll take it over people who have vague plans to deal with the problem by raising taxes on the rich, "closing the loopholes", or, um, ending our wildfire epidemic of unnecessary amputations. If Democrats are serious about the budget deficit, then they too will need to propose a set of equally dramatic changes.
Why haven't they? Presumably, because it would be awful. Without entitlement cuts, the necessary tax rates would be very high, and not just on the rich. Military spending cuts would have to be deep, and still wouldn't cover the shortfall. Government as a share of GDP would rise sharply, and right-wing pundits would not neglect to add the state and local burden up to a number that would distress many Americans. Who vote.
Do you want to be the one to tell them that they're going to have to pay higher taxes for the same, or lower levels of services? I've been trying to tell them that for years now, and believe me, on the fun scale it's somewhere between a root canal, and seeing Neil Diamond live . . . at the kind of venue that doesn't serve alcohol.