One of the major differences between people with right of center views on economic policy who know what they’re talking about and those who don’t know what they’re talking about, is that those who don’t know what they’re talking about tend to prattle a lot about equality of opportunity. Not coincidentally, today’s Paul Ryan speech at the Heritage Foundation is all about equality of opportunity. Indeed, Ryan claims to believe that a dispute over this idea is at the core of modern-day partisan politics:
These actions starkly highlight the difference between the two parties that lies at the heart of the matter: Whether we are a nation that still believes in equality of opportunity, or whether we are moving away from that, and towards an insistence on equality of outcome.
This naturally raises the question of what it is that Ryan is doing to level the playing field between kids with rich parents and kids with poor parents. Is he a proponent of boosting Section 8 housing vouchers and other federal programs that might make it easier for poor parents to move their kids into high-quality school districts? Has he done anything to boost child nutrition or children’s health programs? Does Ryan think we should make it more difficult for wealthy parents to directly transfer financial resources to their children? Does Ryan support making Pell Grants more generous? Equalizing funding across school districts? Well, no, he doesn’t support any of those things. We all remember Paul Ryan’s big picture budget plan. Its key planks were:
— Lower taxes on high income individuals.
— Generous retirement benefits for people born in 1956 or older.
— Deep immediate reductions in anti-poverty spending.
— Major reductions in retirement benefits for people born after 1956.
What items on that agenda would increase equality of opportunity? The answer, of course, is that none of them would. As all intelligent proponents of low taxes and stingy welfare programs acknowledge, securing equal opportunities is in fact an incredibly ambitious progressive agenda.