Paul Ryan (and Penn Jillette) vs. Entitlements

No sooner had Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled his new budget proposal than liberals were howling in rage and righteous indignation. What was it that  infuriated them so? James Pethokoukis at The American gives a clue when he compared Ryan’s budgetary approach with the president’s:

Ryan’s Path to Prosperity would cut the growth in Medicaid spending by $770 billion over ten years vs. President Obama’s budget, still spending $3.5 trillion overall on the program. Ryan would convert the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant to the states – indexed for inflation and population growth — giving them the flexibility to design programs that best suit their needs. He would also convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into a block grant indexed for inflation and eligibility beginning in 2016 and make aid contingent on work or job training. There is also a goal of “devolving other low-income assistance programs to the states.”  The goal here isn’t just to cut spending growth, but to create a culture of empowerment rather than dependency.

It is, of course, this desire to create a culture of “empowerment rather than dependency” that  is the driving factor behind Ryan’s entitlement reform plans. And it is this desire that has aroused the ire of the left, who reside in a twisted world where “dependence” is synonymous with “moral.” Take Jonathan Cohn, who in a New Republic piece, “The Stunning Immorality of Paul Ryan’s Budget,” writes that Ryan’s effort to “strengthen the safety net” through structural reform  is “morally bankrupt.”

Liberals have long been good at framing any attempt to encourage responsibility as a moral failing. Indeed, the moral imperative of government redistribution is perhaps the one idea universally held and cherished among liberals of all stripes across the globe.

But it is, of course, a fatal and fatally flawed idea, and magician Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) tells us why in his wonderful, sacred-cow puncturing new book, God, No!:

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have government take money by force through taxes to give money to poor people is compassion.  Helping poor and suffering people is compassion.  Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral, self righteous, bullying laziness.  People need to be fed, medicated, educated clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right.  There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gun point.

Penn is entirely right, of course. And he has also put his finger on the real motivating factor behind redistribution schemes — power. Love of power and force, not morality,  has always been the black, beating the heart of left-wing ideology, which is why historically so many left-wing regimes have degenerated into murder and massacre.

Kudos to Penn, for bringing clarity to an issue so clouded by the moral and intellectual turpitude of professional pundits and politicians.