J.B. Pritzker Has Answers for All the Easy Questions, but When it Comes to Fixing Illinois, He’s “Gotta Go” (A Sarcastic Analysis of a Pritzker Advertisement)

I’m sure you know him, one of the richest guys in the state, and I’m sure you’ve seen his (infamous) commercials, including the one I’m talking about.

J.B. Pritzker, who is running for governor, is just meandering down the block (you should seriously watch it) when confronted by an interviewer.

Hey, J.B., what’s the first thing you did this morning?

I’m thinking shower, shave, make breakfast for the kids, or walk the dog.

But not J.B. He went to a parent-teacher conference for his son.

My parents when to all of my parent-teacher conferences when I was in elementary and middle school. Not one of them was ever first thing in the morning. But maybe J.B. gets up at 5 a.m.

But instead of following up on that incongruity, our intrepid interviewer asks another tough question: “All-time favorite television series?” She asks. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to ask Bruce Rauner or Dan McConchie this question, but contained myself.

J.B. answers “Gilligan’s Island” and “Walking Dead.” What a renaissance man. I would never have picked those, but I’d die for a TV special called “The Walking Dead visits Gilligan’s Island.”

But let’s move on. Best concert you’ve ever been to, J.B.? Steve Miller and the Eagles, he says.

OK, (when I’m not listening to country) my music taste is a bit older than J.B., but from his answer I think I can assume our musical history covers the same era. But, I wouldn’t pay to see those guys.

No Springsteen? No Allman Brothers? No Fleetwood Mac or Rod Stewart or Rolling Stones? J.B., you’ve got to get out more.

Then comes the question that is as close to the “favorite color” question as we can get. What is J.B.’s favorite season? He likes springtime.

I think that is rather odd for a Chicagoan, when there is nothing to do in springtime but hunker down in the cold and the rain, unless he goes to Daytona Beach in springtime. Maybe he saw Steve Miller at the Daytona Holiday Inn one night. After all, my parents saw Little Richard there and supposedly it was a pretty good show.

Finally comes the biggie, the question every candidate waits for because it is placed on a tee for J.B. to hit out of the park.

“In one sentence,” the interviewer asks, “why are you running for governor?”

J.B. doesn’t hesitate: “Because everything that I care about, and I think everything we care about, is under siege by Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump.”

And then he quickly adds: “I gotta go.”

I think the “I gotta go” is my favorite part of the whole ad. J.B. has time to answer questions about concerts, TV shows and favorite seasons, but when it comes to running the state of Illinois, he’s gotta go.

Nothing about the pension crisis, the budget crisis, the tax crisis, the education crisis, the innocent people getting shot every day in Chicago crisis (including kids sitting on their front stoop), people leaving in Illinois in droves crisis or the what kind of sandwich does Michael Madigan want crisis, and “he’s gotta go”.

And I’m supposed to vote for this guy? I still don’t know his favorite color.

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As Social Security and Medicare Dwindle…

Fiscal calamities are sometimes sudden and unforeseen. A war or natural catastrophe can require lots of money on short notice. A recession depletes revenues that were already spoken for.

But the crisis in funding for Social Security and Medicare is not that kind. In fact, it’s the most predictable budget crisis the nation has ever faced. Policymakers, alas, have taken its slow emergence not as a chance to act early but as an excuse to procrastinate.

The outlook is darkening. The trustees of the Social Security and Medicare funds report that, yes, they are still running out of money. This year, for the first time since 1982, Social Security will pay more in benefits than it gets in revenue. And the gap will only grow.

The fund that pays retirement and disability benefits, the trustees calculate, will be exhausted 16 years from now. This is bad news for those who don’t plan to retire before 2034 and worse news for those who are younger still. The Medicare fund, however, will be depleted just eight years from now.

If all that happens, Social Security will have the money to cover only about three-quarters of its obligations. Medicare will have just 91 percent of what it needs. Avoiding these grim scenarios will require Congress to find ways to close the gap.

The forecast is scary for those in their 40s and 50s, who can see retirement on the horizon – not to mention for older Americans, who are already there. But it’s worst for younger people, who can expect to be paying more in the short run and getting less in the long term.

The causes of the problem are well-known: benefit costs that have risen faster than income and will keep doing so. The retirement of the baby boom generation has swelled the rolls at a time when birth rates are low. In 1960, there were five Americans working for every one collecting Social Security. By 2005, it was down to 3.3 workers per retiree. Today, it’s around 2.8 and falling.

Medicare has gotten an extra hit, because health care costs have been on a growth spurt. Per capita Medicare outlays are projected to triple by 2040.

So, what to do? The Trump administration says the tax reform passed last year will boost economic growth and bring in a lot more revenue, but so far, it’s done neither. In fact, reducing individual income tax rates trimmed revenue from taxes on Social Security benefits — revenue that goes into the trust funds.

But the administration has a point: Faster GDP growth would make a huge difference in preserving the solvency of the funds. Any policy that promises to boost the economy deserves a serious look.

Another option is admitting more immigrants, which would expand the number of people making payroll tax contributions. But the trustees report that the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “will reduce the number of authorized workers and projected payroll tax income slightly.” Letting the dreamers stay and work — and admitting more legal immigrants — would be a fiscal boon.

But there is probably no getting around the need to curtail the growth of retirement and Medicare benefits. This is a politically dangerous option, which is why our policymakers have been in no hurry to embrace it. But putting it off will only make solutions harder.

The right time to address the problem was a decade or two ago. Had reforms been adopted then, these programs would have a much better future — and those Americans who need them would have had more time to adapt. As it is, Congress and the president can do a lot to avert disaster. But time is not on their side.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

This oft-repeated question says nothing about God, but everything about human beings.


Disclaimer: this post has very little (if not anything at all) to do with politics, but I feel like I needed to write to get this off of my chest, and this site is the only way that I could publish my work. Also, this post may get a tad too theological or religious for some, as I, a Lutheran man, talk about faith and life in general, so enjoy my contemplation about life. (For the record, I am writing this introduction first without any plan or guide, I am just writing to get something off of my chest, as this is something that I have been thinking about for a while.)


As an aspiring medical school student, for the past month and a couple of weeks, I had the great privilege to shadow a couple of oncologists. As I also want to pursue oncology in the future (and still do), and I needed some (and will need a lot more) experience for applications for medical school. This whole shadowing experience really has changed me: changed my opinions on healthcare and its expenses (specifically on the cost of pharmaceuticals) (stayed tuned for another blog post soon?) and has changed my opinion on life in general. I got to see a lot of success stories, some patients on the cusp into remission and follow up appointments with patients who have beaten cancer. But there were mostly negative and depressing patients and stories. I met a twenty five year old with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma that had spread to his liver and kidneys (he already had kidney failure and needed dialysis), a thirty five year old (married and with a month old child) with tumors and lesions running rampant all over his brain and spinal cord (his was initially in for a supposed ear infection), and an seventy four year old women (had had been extremely healthy her entire life) with an accelerated case of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) (just to name a few that really stuck out and impacted me the most); patients who have months to live, people would are going to be on hospice care very soon.

So, my question is: why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Cancer (and other potentially deadly diseases), terrorist attacks, school shootings, automobile accidents, genocide, etc… why do they happen? Isn’t God supposed to be looking out for his children?


Why Do Bad Things Happen?

We’ve all heard it numerous times: “Why would a God who is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful allow bad things to happen to ‘good’ people?” We can also turn the question around: “Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to ‘bad’ people?” After all, while seeing good people suffer is horrible, it’s not much fun seeing “evil” people having fun either.

It has to be said, though, that this question is sometimes asked in innocence by people with a genuine desire to understand what seems impossible to understand. Other times it’s asked by people who have suffered or whose loved ones have known grief and loss. They honestly want to know: How could God let this happen to me and to mine? Why wouldn’t God stop this pain and help me? After all, sometimes we experience devastating suffering. Just consider the Holocaust, the abduction and murder of a child, or the long and painful death of a kind and gentle person.

The critic of Christianity would respond that God is either not all-knowing, not all-powerful, or not all-good. I would say that the question—and even the problem—are actually more of a difficulty and a conundrum for the nonbeliever than for the Christian.

The materialist and the atheist, those who would deny God, believe that at death, all is over. Life is finished, it is done and complete; we are dust, mere food for worms. To these people, pain has no meaning other than what it is: pure, unadulterated suffering, without any redeeming purpose. To the atheist, there may be a certain formless heroism attached to the person who faces suffering with courage and without complaining. But if we are all body and flesh, and no soul and spirit, if we are mere products of a selfish gene and nothing more, one wonders why this heroism would in any way be significant.

There is, though, a greater point, and that is that the atheist is convinced that these years we spend on earth—perhaps eighty or more if we’re lucky, and only a handful if we’re not—are everything we have, and constitute the total human experience. Christians, on the other hand, believe that these years on earth, while important and to be used wisely and to be enjoyed, are preparation for a far greater life to come. They are, in effect, a thin ray of light from the great sunshine that is eternity and life in heaven with God. “My end is my beginning.”

While it’s neurotic rather than Christian to welcome suffering, and no intelligent and comprehending Christian would welcome suffering for its own sake, the Bible actually makes it quite clear that faith in Jesus Christ does not guarantee a good life, but a perfect eternity. Indeed, there is more prediction in Scripture of a struggle on earth for the believer than there is of gain and success. There may be Christian sects that promise material wealth and all sorts of triumphs in exchange for faith, but this is a non-Christian, even an anti-Christian bargain, and has never been something that orthodox Christianity would affirm. Christians believe that this life on earth is only the land of shadows and that real life hasn’t yet begun. So yes, bad things happen to “good” people.

Some might argue that Christian belief is merely an excuse to escape the harshness of reality, but that’s no more reasonable than arguing that atheism is a mere excuse to escape the harsh reality of judgment and the thought of an eternity spent without and away from God. The more important point, though, is that the oft-repeated criticism that bad things happen to good people says nothing at all about God, but everything about human beings. Pain may not be desirable, but it’s only a feeling, as is joy. Yet pain is not mere suffering, but also a warning sign and a way to protect us against danger. That something may hurt is undeniable, and that we will all feel some sort of pain at some point is inevitable, but whether this pain is our doing or God’s is something entirely different. The all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God allows us to suffer, just as he allows us all sorts of things, because we have the freedom to behave as we will. But he has also provided a place with the greatest contentment we can imagine if only we listen to him, listen to his Son, and listen to his church.

As to the specific issue of pain and suffering, C. S. Lewis, who watched his beloved wife die of cancer, put it this way: “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God’s plan is for us to return to him, and to lead the best possible life on earth; sometimes we need to be reminded of our purpose. Pain is a sharp, clear tool to achieve that purpose. A needle may be necessary to prevent disease or infection; nobody welcomes or enjoys the injection, but it prevents a far greater suffering, just as what may seem like even intolerable pain now will lead to far greater happiness later.

Lewis also wrote:

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively his lovingness …. By Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, “What does it matter so long as they are contented?” We want, in fact, not so much a Father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

Today this applies far more obviously even than when Lewis was working and writing—he died in 1963. If I want something, runs the modern idiom, I need something; and if I need something, thus I must have something. To the Christian, however, God knows our needs better than we do, and also knows that our wants and our needs are distinctly different. Which leads to the challenge of why God would allow us to go and do wrong, or why he allows us to want something that’s not necessarily to our eternal advantage, or even to our immediate good.

Nor is it the case that he makes himself difficult to find, which leads to the accusation that a truly good God would make it easier, even inevitable and unavoidable, that we would all follow him and find our way to heaven. But this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s involvement and intervention in history, and—again—of what choice is all about, and how enmeshed love and choice always have to be.

On the one hand, if he made himself entirely obvious, only a fool or a masochist would purposely reject him, and he would effectively be giving us no choice at all. Intimidating as it may seem, we are also being tested, and judged—and judgment is the last thing that modern, Western humanity is willing to be subjected to. But remember that that same modern, Western person often complains about fairness, or lack of same. It would be horribly unfair if anybody and everybody, irrespective of their choices, spent eternity in joy and completeness with God in heaven. It’s likely that the same people who complain about bad things happening to good people now would then loudly protest that it was wrong that such good things—actually the best things possible—should happen to bad people, some of them the worst people possible.

On the other hand, if he made himself almost impossible to find, God would be playing cruel games with us and would be loveless, like some supreme vivisectionist, possessing power but showing no affection and without any responsibility. So he makes himself entirely recognizable and attainable, if we have the slightest inclination to find him. He sent us monarchs, prophets, martyrs, signs and symbols, miracles, and finally his Son, to die in agony for us and then through the Resurrection prove God’s love, power, and being. Not a bad set of clues when you think about it. If you think about it. But you do, yes, have to think about it.


So, I think I am done droning on about life and theology. I think I may have found the answer? Maybe you should be the judge.


In summation, I have learned this through my experiences at the hospital: Live today to the fullest. Make today the best day that you’ve ever had, as tomorrow is not a given. Especially for cancer patients, tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Live life in the moment. Life is short, and we have a limited time on this planet to make an impact.

Do not countdown the days, make your days count. 

Bigoted Boy Scouts Welcome Girls But Still Exclude All 49,247 Other Genders (Satire)

IRVING, TX—In a bold move designed to garner praise from the nation’s progressives, the Boy Scouts of America finally admitted girls into their ranks, but were discovered to be hopelessly bigoted upon the revelation that they are still excluding the 49,247 other genders that have been scientifically identified.

The Scouts immediately drew heavy criticism for only allowing one additional gender to join their ranks while ignoring the tens of thousands of other genders who might wish to become a Scout.

“How can they call themselves progressive when they still won’t recognize even basic gender identities like toothpaste and Space Marine?” one progressive leader said in a Huffington Post article slamming the organization for its obvious traditional biases.

“It’s 2018, and a person who identifies as a metronome still can’t join the Boy Scouts. Let that sink in,” she added. “I mean, seriously. Let that kid who thinks he’s a sink join the group for cryin’ out loud.”

The Scouts quickly apologized for their decision and attempted to make things right by introducing a barrage of new social justice-oriented merit badges, including a Woke Badge, a Marginalized Badge, and a Help, Help, I’m Being Repressed Badge.


Disclaimer: The above story is satire. It is completely fictitious.

The Trump Administration Shouldn’t Imitate the Obama Administration’s Crony Energy Style

Solar, wind and the like are awful returns on your energy investment dollar (also known as taxes). On their own – and even more so when compared to real energy sources like coal and oil.

And fake energy sources – claiming to be “green” – are absolutely awful for the environment.

Spent solar panels – must be handled as if they are nuclear waste. Wind turbines – also must be made of toxic materials. And wind turbine farms – are giant bird blenders. They mow down hundreds of thousands of fowl per annum.

And of course – these “green” energy sources can not exist without massive infusions of government cash. When the subsidies go away – so too do the “fake” energy companies.

If you are so awful at whatever it is you do that you need government money to continue to exist – you shouldn’t continue to exist.

As I have always said: Government doesn’t pick winners and losers – it picks losers at the expense of winners.

Government takes money from winners – people who have succeeded, and thus pay taxes – and hand it to losers who have proven they can not succeed, and thus need government money.

Good ideas are…good ideas. And require no government money. No one needs to subsidize ice cream.

Green energy…is an awful idea (let the private sector take care of it). And thus requires tons of government money.

The Barack Obama Administration loved bad ideas. And LOVED spending tons of government money on them. Green energy – was a particular love thereof.

And why did the Obama Administration engage in this inanity – aside from ideological idiocy? Why, crony idiocy of course.

80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Obama Backers

Thankfully, finally – the Barack Obama Administration is in the rearview mirror. We now have the Donald Trump Administration – which has spent some of its time undoing what its predecessor did.

But unfortunately – some habits die hard. Like heaping government money upon people who aren’t hacking it on their own.

The Trump Administration’s Energy Department – is poised to continue this awful Obama Administration Energy Department practice. Only with different government-money crony-recipients:

“In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected a profoundly anti-competitive proposal by the Energy Department to provide billions in subsidies to old, unprofitable power plants. After the exceptional political blowback from its attempt to pick winners (or more aptly, subsidize losers), Energy Department officials are back to the drawing board. But have they learned?

“The early signs indicate a clear ‘no.’ Key political appointees at the Energy Department (DOE) are ignoring evidence and bypassing their own in-house experts to funnel financial aid to unprofitable power plants. The motives couldn’t be more obvious – the same politically-tied companies that drove the last proposal are back at it again because they can’t compete in the marketplace.”

Fantastic. More government money – for more political cronies. How very Obama Administration of the Trump Administration.

Everyone involved in the process of generating and delivering real energy – and not on the government money recipient list – are vociferously opposed. The opposition – is bipartisan and nigh universal:

“Democrats and former George W. Bush administration energy officials decried the proposal while consumer and environmental groups joined free-market think tanks, including the R Street Institute and The Heritage Foundation, in opposition….

“Broad coalitions – such as the Affordable Energy Coalition – have formed in defense of markets….

“Grid operators strongly opposed the department’s proposal, citing deep anti-competitive concerns and saying it was not necessary to preserve grid reliability. FERC’s decision echoed this sentiment….

“Heavy industry, dismayed by the Energy Department proposal, told Congress that ‘DOE is saying manufacturing jobs are not as important as the jobs at economically obsolete…power plants.’ It’s not the role of the federal government to determine whose job is more important.”

Indeed “it’s not the role of the federal government to determine whose job is more important.”

The Trump Energy Department’s response – was very Obama-esque:

“Almost comically, Energy Department officials responded by suggesting that they needed to ‘help FERC members understand the importance of coal’ to electric reliability and resiliency.”

This DOE proposal – is unadulterated cronyism. No more – no less:

“At the nexus of incompetence and cronyism lies the pinnacle of bad governance. For an administration that promised to drain the swap, energy subsidies do precisely the opposite. Subsidizing unprofitable power plants puts cronies, not America, first….

“Economic fundamentals, not cronyism, should drive electricity investment decisions. Competitive electricity markets align economic incentives and put customers, not well-connected companies, first. Putting private capital at risk, rather than socializing risk through taxpayer or ratepayer-funded subsidies and regulated monopolies, ensures that companies properly assess their investments. This is why competitive markets have outperformed monopoly investments, resulting in cost-efficient investments, increased innovation and more choice for American families and businesses….

“If power plants are profitable, subsidies only serve to pad a company’s bottom line. If they’re not profitable, taxpayers should not prop them up. Rather than keeping them on life support, government should allow economic failures to fail so that those resources are free to flow to more useful purposes elsewhere in the economy.”

Here’s hoping this massive, bipartisan opposition – and their massive assertion of reality – will lead to a change of heart…and minds:

“In an April 2017 memo, (Energy) Secretary (Rick) Perry requested a study examining the country’s electricity markets and reliability. The Energy Department should seek to enhance competitive markets by following through on technical recommendations from the resulting staff report.

“Furthermore, the department should offer its modeling and other in-house technical capabilities to grid operators and FERC officials as they continue to examine grid resilience. This would complement a broader conservative energy reset, anchored by a commitment to competition, customer choice and good governance.”

We need a change of Obama pace. And, actually, a change from decades of bipartisan DC awful:

“For decades, the federal government has implemented distortionary energy subsidies and regulations. Further undermining competitive markets and pouring billions in subsidies to cronies is a surefire way to harm all energy customers, stifle innovation and promote energy dependence on handouts. Congress should press the administration for a course correction – or else members will face the wrath of dismayed voters with higher energy bills this fall.”

Let us, finally, return to an actual free market energy system – and thereby reassert just a little bit of Reality in DC.

On the Syrian Bombing…

The motivation for Great Britain, France and the United States to use their air power to downgrade Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons is to send a message to the other rogue states that in this, on this earth we cannot permit, the Western powers, cannot permit chemical weapons or nuclear weapons and we just can’t permit them to be used.

Now, there are a number of people who doubt that Assad the dictator of Syria, is using chlorine and the other chemical weapons. There is no one else on the planet that has the delivery system to place chlorine gas in a suburb of Damascus, no one, it’s either Assad or nobody. Now, he’s got a history all the intelligence agencies agree that he’s doing it. Macon of France and Theresa May of Great Britain never in a million years would have signed on with Donald Trump to bomb Syria had their intelligence services, not said it’s Assad. So, the bombing to downgrade the chemical situation was lawful and legitimate.

Now, whether we should do it or participate you can debate that all day long. But if we’re not going to send messages throughout the world that chemical weapons are unacceptable if we the United States are not going to do that. Who’s going to do it? So, then you’re going to have every tinhorn Decatur having chemical weapons because they’re not hard to develop. That’s what led to the Iraq war that everybody thought Saddam Hussein had this big cache of chemical and biological weapons, it’s turned out to be false by the way. And the intelligence agencies turned out to be wrong, I’ll see that. But now we have a number of attacks in Syria. A number of attacks on the ground the medical people say this baby died from chlorine ingestion. All right, the doctors aren’t lying, so it’s who’s putting the chlorine in? Who’s putting the chemical weapons in as nobody else has a delivery system to do it. It’s not like Syria is a place where you can just drive around with big trucks full of chemical weapons and dump them. You know the military controls Syria. So, if you know anything about this there isn’t any doubt that Assad is the villain and he’s protected by Putin in Russia and Iran.

So, he feels he can get away with it, see he would love, Assad would love to have America and Russia slug it out. Assad would love that so that’s one of the reasons that he continues to do this to try to get a bigger conflict going. Assad is a real evil guy. Now, you turn on the television and you hear the dishonest charlatans say oh this is “wag the dog”. That means the movie, Wag the Dog, where Dustin Hoffman was in. And it’s about a president who gets in trouble and then creates falsifies a military conflict, to get people’s minds off the trouble that he has.

So, immediately these charlatans go out on cable television, network television, “oh it’s Wag the Dog”. So, I’m saying to myself to believe that you would have to believe that Macron of France and May of Great Britain are colluding with Trump to save him from the Mueller investigation, they’re all in it together. The big, big drive to save Donald Trump’s butt. Who on earth would believe that? Who? It’s so moronic, so stupid, so insulting to anyone’s intelligence, yet there they are being paid millions of dollars sitting there by major corporations spouting this gibberish and I’m just sitting there going how much are people going to take? And you know what, there’s an audience for it, there’s an audience for, you would think that these people who are bereft of honesty who all day long, their agenda is to destroy people with whom they disagree including Donald Trump. You would think that people, everybody would say you know what enough I’m going to waste my time watching that. I’m not going to waste my time reading that newspaper. I know everything in that newspaper is already a foregone conclusion. The journalistic industry no longer is searching for the truth, they don’t care from the top down. A narrative is put forth to all the journalists who work in the company, and they know that their editors, producers whatever it may be, want to get Trump (awfulness from MSNBC, CNN, NYT, Stephanopoulos, and other countless outlets) or in some cases want to protect (awfulness from Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Fox & Friends, just to name a few) Trump, then rank and file know that. So, when they’re given an assignment, it’s implied, this is what we’re looking for.

So, the people reporting know what is expected of them if they want to keep their job and get good assignments. Same thing on cable TV, the pundits know what their role is, what they’re expected to say, if they don’t say it, they’re not going to be on. So, these people they go on television oh it’s Wag the Dog, So, there wasn’t anything necessary to do in Syria, it is just Trump wanted to do it to get away from the Mueller investigation and, and Macron and Theresa May, they’re helping the what kind of a moron. I mean really a 6-year-old wouldn’t say that, if they if you gave them the facts they would go, no that doesn’t really sound right, but these people are paid millions of dollars to spit this stuff out every night. It’s unbelievable, and they and people watch all right.

So, summing up the message was to the world you can’t use chemical weapons to kill anybody, much less women and children and if you do the major Western powers are going to hurt you. I don’t object to that message, I do not, even though I know the history of Iraq and how we got involved in something that we should not have gotten involved with based upon wrong information and whatever, I will see that but each situation has to be taken on its own merits.

Paul Ryan: The Speaker Who Spoke About Deficits

Most know how to get most members of Congress and candidates to mumble uncomfortably: Ask for their plans to deal with the nation’s troubling debt load and unsustainable Medicare and Social Security burdens. Politicians love to make lofty promises; they hate to be associated with responsible budget-cutting proposals.

One high-profile exception to that rule is U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, who announced Wednesday he will leave Congress at the end of his current term. Ryan’s been a favorite of mine through his years in Washington because he isn’t afraid to talk about the trillions of dollars America doesn’t have — but spends anyway! — for entitlements. And he sticks his neck out to propose budget solutions.

Back in 2011 when the national debt was $15 trillion and Ryan was about to be accused in an attack advertisement of “throwing granny off the cliff”, he said he’d keep trying to fix massive social programs like Medicare, in order to protect America’s future fiscal health.

“What if your congressman, your president knew what was coming and did nothing?” “… Everyone tells me that I’m giving our political adversaries the massive political weapon to use in the next campaign. Yes, we are. But you know, if you don’t start fixing these things ….”- Speaker Paul Ryan

Today the national debt is $21 trillion. The Medicare trust fund that pays hospital expenses will be depleted in 2029, according to a recent estimate. Social Security will have a shortfall beginning in 2034. Yet the 2018 election season will find many candidates, especially Democrats, embracing a form of universal health insurance they call “Medicare for all.” How to pay for it? Voters are more likely to see another “granny ad” than a detailed plan.

I am not suggesting Ryan, who chaired the House budget and tax-writing committees before becoming speaker, had all the answers. Ryan and his allies in 2011 proposed reining in the deficit and debt partly through a revamping of Medicare that would use a voucher system to provide subsidies for seniors to obtain private insurance. This was a linchpin of the Ryan budget plan. The idea — a more free-market approach — is still floating out there, but the national political focus shifted to Obamacare. Part of Ryan’s concern was that expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would become another costly burden for states. How to fix or replace Obamacare? Hmm, neither Ryan nor his predecessor as speaker, John Boehner, could solve that thorny problem.

Ryan said he will not seek re-election because it’s time to go home to his family. He doesn’t want to be a permanent “weekend dad.” He never burned with desire to be speaker, but someone in the fractured Republican Party has to wrangle the House cats. Ryan, a respected conservative with strong policy chops, stepped up. Dealing with irascible President Donald Trump made a tough job tougher. Ryan said he isn’t leaving out of fear the Republicans will lose control of the House in November, but such worries seem unavoidable.

No one knows what Ryan plans next. In 2012 he was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate. In 2016, when Republicans braced for the possibility of a deadlocked convention, I rooted for an alternative to Trump and suggested Ryan. That doesn’t mean he should run for president, or that he would earn my support.

But there should always be a prominent role in politics for principled budget-minders. That is Ryan’s congressional legacy.