Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Politician Approaching The Truth?

Paul Ryan wrote an opinion piece ("A Better Way Up From Poverty") published by the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, August 16th.  The piece contains a remarkable public acknowledgement: He was wrong.

Mr Ryan, a Republican congressman from the 1st district in Wisconsin and Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick in the 2012 elections, is well known for his efforts to inspire and bring about positive, constructive economic reform in the federal government.  He continues that effort in this recent piece.  He proposes a path forward in a continued attempt to reduce citizen dependency on the government and ultimately to eliminate poverty in America.

Here is where is piece is noteworthy: He begins by describing how a single question posed to him by a supporter of his political opposition led to a realization that he was viewing entitlements incorrectly.

He had been using the phrase "makers and takers" in order to highlight the idea that some citizens were generating more tax revenue than they were using, and some were doing the opposite.  A moral judgment is inherent with the use of this phrase.  The Makers are the good guys who should be honored and given respect for their self-sacrifice and hard work.  The Takers are the bad guys, lazy, good-for-nuthin's that live off the hard work of others while sitting on the couch clicking the remote.  The moral component is little considered by the small-government, conservative side... because it would require the 'good guys', those who think they are the makers, like Paul Ryan and his supporters, to realize that they are not so pure as they originally thought.

The challenge question, as Mr. Ryan wrote about the encounter with the unnamed Democrat:
"The makers and the takers," he said. "I know who the makers are, but who are the takers? Is it the person who lost a job and is on unemployment benefits? Is it the veteran who served in Iraq and gets medical care through the VA? When you talk about the takers, who exactly do you mean?" 
And Mr. Ryan's considered response:
Who is a taker?  My mom, who is on medicare?  Me at 18 years old, using the Social Security survivor's benefits we got after my father's death to go to college.  My buddy who had been unemployed and used job-training benefits to get back on his feet?
In many political arguments, this is the moment when the progressive left catches us in a trap we conservatives set for ourselves.  We have a moment of discovery... "Omigosh, we are the Takers, too...,"  We don't want to think we are the bad guys... and so we believe we have lost the moral high ground and must necessarily stand down, sit down, shut up, and let the left win the policy debate.

Mr. Ryan is able to see his own failing though, and realize that the Makers and the Takers are all the same.  This is a remarkable characteristic, especially for a politician.  Acknowledge his fault, accept his share of personal responsibility for the problem, do so publicly, ... and then continue to attempt to find a constructive solution for the problem, anyway (because it still needs to be solved!)
Like many of the challenges we're facing, the tipping point we're approaching is the result of a liberal progressive mindset that seeks a larger, more active government and lets bureaucrats decide what's best for everyone instead of allowing citizens to govern themselves.  
For as much progress as Mr. Ryan has made with his argument, this paragraph demonstrates there is more road for him to travel.  He states that the liberal progressive is seeking a larger government that decides for the citizen.  His proposed antidote is that the citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves...

...which presumes that the liberal progressive big government types have the authority to allow or disallow the free decision-making of the citizens.  The citizens do not need anyone's permission to govern themselves.  We own that as a God given right.  We citizens need only accept our responsibility, step forward, and seize that Natural authority for ourselves.

Another issue is present that deserves attention: Why does the liberal progressive seek a larger government where bureaucrats decide what's best?  The best answer I can come up with (and one that I was knocking around in a previous post) is: Because they seek power.  It is an irrational goal, but it appears to be the goal.

These two thoughts work together.  The citizens own their own right to govern themselves.  To ensure they always maintain that right, I propose requires the citizens to do two things:

  1. Always make their own decisions; and
  2. Ensure no law, if passed, could be used to undermine rule #1.

Mr. Ryan does do something remarkable.  He listens to an opponent's argument, applies the moral case of the argument to himself, finds himself wanting, acknowledges his failing, and thoughtfully revises his policy.  He does all of this publicly.  We are all better off for his efforts of self-improvement, and his willingness to continue to fight for what he knows is right.

I hope that he can make these next further steps and recognize that the citizens already have a natural authority to govern their own affairs and the efforts of the modern liberal progressive types are irrational attempts to control their fellow citizens.  I think this will allow him to advance his argument to the natural endpoint: Federal entitlement programs must be reduced and in most cases (if not all) eliminated.

I am impressed with Mr. Ryan's efforts so far, and may have to read the book he promotes with his piece.  This is the type of leadership we need to help all of us stand and resist our political opponents and their efforts to sap our freedoms and exert control over our daily lives.