This is a tough time of the year for political journalists.
Editors love it, but journalists are saddled with the task of culling delightful and dramatic stories from dull, dry numbers.
This is the time of the year when state and federal governments release their budget proposals for the coming year (fiscal year 2011). At this moment, journalists all over the nation are plodding through small-print dictionary-sized volumes filled with line after line of allocations and appropriations. Each line represents the future for an organization or agency, and often journalists will have two of these behemoths in front of them as they copiously compare last year's allowance to this year's (that is often where interesting stories will reveal themselves).
Just describing the process gives me flashbacks of weary tedium, and the memory of sitting in one place for so long sends a dull ache down my spine.
Since last week, however, I've been all too familiar with the process, studying the Republicans' 2011 budget proposal submitted by Wisconsin House Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan calls it the "Roadmap to America's Future 2.0." He tacks the 2.0 onto the title, because he submitted a 2010 budget last year under the same name.
Liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, who once worked for Howard Dean, published a blog Monday that tore apart Ryan's budget, offering only part of the story, but employing scare tactics to keep people from taking it seriously.
After studying the proposal over the weekend, a reader was kind enough to send me a link to Klein's post (thanks, RealTime), which prompted me to switch gears and turn the article I was previously writing into a response. Much of what I had already been working on is included, so forgive me.
From the article:
At first glance, Klein's analysis seems difficult to refute, except for one nagging question: why would Ryan risk political suicide by fashioning a budget proposal around a benefit reduction for seniors? Seniors are perhaps the most powerful political force in America. Sure, tinkering with Medicare benefits is an inevitable certainty, but reducing them as dramatically as Klein claims Ryan does just doesn't make political sense. A closer look sheds more light on the issue ... as it so often does.
If president Barack Obama is serious about considering Republican ideas, Ryan's proposal is an excellent place for him to start. The Congressman's Roadmap uses real numbers to address real problems and offers real solutions. Obama would be wise to consider it.
Look for analysis of Obama's budget proposal later this week. To steal a word from Klein, I'm still "slogging" through it.
Screen Capture from Roadmap.Republicans.Budget.House.Gov