Friday, May 27, 2011

Kimberley Strassel: 'Who's Winning the Budget War?'

At Wall Street Journal:

Here's the Washington headline of the week that nobody in America got to read: Paul Ryan, 40. Barack Obama, 0.

Forty is the number of Senate votes that went in favor of Mr. Ryan's reformist budget, a tally that included nearly every Senate Republican. Zero is the number of votes President Obama got for his own tax-and-spend budget, a blueprint that not one of his own party had the backbone to support. It went down, 97-0.

Washington is in a game of high-stakes chicken over raising the debt limit, though so far only one side is flinching. According to the headlines (and Democrats), Republicans are on defense over Mr. Ryan's plan, are risking America's creditworthiness, and are delaying sensible compromise by refusing tax increases. It is only a matter of time, goes the betting, before the party swerves.

This has little relation to reality, in which it is Democrats who keep calling their own bluffs. It was Mr. Obama who first swerved, submitting a "do-over" of his initial, embarrassing budget. It is Democrats who have since swerved on the debt-limit debate, agreeing to spending-cut negotiations, then continuing to up the size of a package.

By refusing to blink, Republicans keep forcing Democrats to acknowledge a very simple political reality: Voters do want spending reform, and do not want tax hikes. That's why this debate has so far moved in the GOP's direction.
RTWT. Strassel mentions NY-26's special election, and she predicted the Democrat victory a couple of weeks ago in any case, "A New York Warning for the GOP":
Good news for a politics-weary nation: Come May 24, the debate over the Paul Ryan budget reform plan will be over—almost before it began. Democrats win. Republicans lose. Long live blowout entitlements.

That, at least, is the narrative being cast on the upcoming special election in New York's 26th congressional district. GOP candidate Jane Corwin had been handily ahead until several weeks ago, when Democrat Kathy Hochul began attacking her for supporting Mr. Ryan's plan. Polls have tightened, and Democrats and the media are now pitching the race as a "referendum" on GOP hopes to cut spending and reform entitlements such as Medicare. A Hochul victory, goes the line, will prove the Ryan plan is a bust even with conservative voters.

Fascinating, if utterly untrue. In their drive to nationalize this story, Democrats and the media are deliberately ignoring the real (if mundane) reasons why the Corwin campaign is struggling—namely, GOP infighting that has allowed a third-party candidate to siphon votes. New York 26 does offer the GOP some important lessons about the entitlement debate—just not any that Democrats are flogging.
See also, John McCormack, "NY-26: Democrat Kathy Hochul Wins with 47% of Vote."