Vol. 45, No. 2

In This Edition

One year before the last presidential election, THE RIPON FORUM ran an essay entitled,“Entitlement Reform: The 800 Pound Gorilla of the 2008 Campaign.” 

Growing our Economy

“There is an ongoing debate in Washington over how to reduce the exploding national debt and strengthen America’s economic outlook. While spending cuts must occur, these reductions alone will not solve the nation’s problems.”

Improving Public Safety Through Prisoner Reentry Programs

“Preparing prisoners for successful re-entry into communities is not soft on crime; it is sound public safety policy. It creates an opportunity to reduce recidivism, and reflects the idea that America is a nation which believes in second chances.”

“More Work to Be Done”

“For decades, Americans with serious mental illnesses — like bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia — and those who love them, have battled an overwhelming stigma that kept discussions about these diseases at the level of hushed whispers, and kept many of us ignorant of the potential for treatment and recovery.”

Beyond the Arab Spring

“When change did come this past spring with uprisings throughout the Arab world, Washington policymakers were left scrambling… Unfortunately, such linear thinking — with virtually no consideration of sudden change — continues among analysts of individual countries in other regions of the world.”

Between Salvation and Solvency

Tom Corbett describes Pennsylvania’s Medicaid reform efforts as, “A difficult and intricate program, assembled like a watch but set to a time zone we long ago departed.”

How to Fix our Entitlement Crisis: A Workable Four Step Plan

“Each of the three main entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – are very different in both goal and design, and need to be examined and reformed individually, even if all of the reforms come as part of a larger deal or package. “

Reforming Social Security Disability Insurance

Richard V. Burkhauser talks about reforming social security disability insurance.

Saving Social Security

The Ripon Society hosted a Bully Pulpit Policy Conference on Social Security Reform in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2011, a conference that focused not only on the need to address the fiscal challenges facing the Social Security system, but a plan that has been introduced in Congress to do just that.

Sunshine is for Voting, not Bargaining

Bill Frenzel makes the point, “If we are going to rely on commissions to help us meet our most pressing fiscal challenges, we need to make sure they have the space and breathing room that will help them get the job done.”

CODEL to America

“In listening to the rhetoric and what passes as intellectual discourse in our nation’s capital, one could conclude that our representatives don’t understand much of our people beyond … Washington D.C.”

Ripon Profile of Senator Ron Johnson

“We’ve got to learn how to make government more efficient and effective. We’ve got to learn how to live within our means.”

In This Edition

One year before the last presidential election, THE RIPON FORUM ran an essay entitled,“Entitlement Reform: The 800 Pound Gorilla of the 2008 Campaign.” 

Authored by David John of the Heritage Foundation, the piece pointed out that none of the major candidates who were then running for the White House were talking about the considerable fiscal challenges facing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. 

Flash forward to this year, and the story is entirely different. Entitlement reform is shaping up to be one of the defining issues of the 2012 campaign. It’s being tackled in statehouses, debated in Congress, and just about every think tank in Washington has put out a white paper or report containing their own set of recommendations of what should be done. 

Into this debate we wade with our own perspectives on the issue. We lead off with an essay by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who discusses the problems facing Medicaid and the effort he is spearheading to save the program for future generations in his state. We move on from there to a broader piece by former Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Tevi Troy, who looks at all the entitlement programs and lays out four common-sense steps to save all three. 

From there, we delve into the complexities of the Social Security Disability Insurance System with Cornell Professor Richard Burkhauser, who discusses the fact that the system is running out of money faster than expected because of government rules that effectively encourage people to remain out of work. Rounding out our coverage of the issue of entitlement reform is coverage of a policy conference The Ripon Society hosted on the topic in late May with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and others. 

Indiana Senator Dan Coats writes about reform of a different kind in an essay about a bipartisan bill he has introduced to scrap the tax code and replace it with a system that’s flatter, fairer, and a better promoter of economic growth. And Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell shares his thoughts on an initiative he is leading in his commonwealth to increase the likelihood that incarcerated individuals will lead productive lives when their sentences are up and they are returned to society. 

With the eyes of the world focused on the uprisings in the Middle East, Lorne Craner of the International Republican Institute looks at where this unrest might spread next, while closer to home, North Carolina Congresswoman Sue Myrick takes on an issue you don’t often hear Republicans discuss – mental illness among young people, and the fact that while great strides have been taken in treating the disease, much more work needs to be done. 

Amid the talk that a “grand compromise” will be needed to arrive at an agreement to balance the budget and reduce our national debt, RIPON FORUM Editorial Board Chairman Bill Frenzel contends in an essay that compromise will be difficult given the intense level of scrutiny these days. His solution? Take a cue from the Founding Fathers and keep the public – and the press – out of the room during budget negotiations. 

In another essay from a member of the FORUM’S editorial board, grassroots expert Jim Murtha, puts forward another idea that could help Members of Congress reach agreement – namely, have them go on a “CODEL to America” to get a better sense of those on the other side of the aisle and the places they call home. 

And in our Ripon Profile for this edition, we focus on Wisconsin Freshman Senator Ron Johnson, who not only discusses why he ran for office in the first place, but also reveals his favorite Vince Lombardi quote. 

As with every edition of THE RIPON FORUM, we hope you enjoy this latest offering and encourage you to write us at editor@riponsociety.org with any thoughts or comments you may have.