well well, Brooks had the bit lauding Mitch Daniels, and now Paul Ryan's budget. He keeps this up and I may have to reevaluate him.

Moment of Truth:

Last fall, the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission released a bold report on how to avoid an economic catastrophe. For a few weeks, the think tanks and government offices were alive with proposals to reduce debt and reform entitlements, the tax code and just about every other government program.

The mood did not last. The polls suggested that voters were still unwilling to accept tax increases or benefit cuts. Smart Washington insiders like Mitch McConnell and President Obama decided that any party that actually tried to implement these ideas would be committing political suicide. The president walked away from the Simpson-Bowles package. Far from addressing the fiscal problems, the president’s budget would double the nation’s debt over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office...

Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Ryan is expected to leap into the vacuum left by the president’s passivity. The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.

His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race...

The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.

The initial coverage will talk about Ryan’s top number — the cuts of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. But the important thing is the way Ryan would reform programs. He would reform the tax code along the Simpson-Bowles lines, but without the tax increases...

The Ryan budget will please governors of both parties by turning Medicaid into a block grant — giving states more flexibility. It tackles agriculture subsidies and other corporate welfare. It consolidates the job-training programs into a single adult scholarship. It reforms housing assistance and food stamps. It dodges Social Security. The Republicans still have no alternative to the Democratic health care reform, but this budget tackles just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts.

Ryan was a protégé of Jack Kemp, and Kemp’s uplifting spirit pervades the document. It’s not sour, taking an austere meat ax approach. It emphasizes social support, social mobility and personal choice. I don’t agree with all of it that I’ve seen, but it is a serious effort to create a sustainable welfare state — to prevent the sort of disruptive change we’re going to face if national bankruptcy comes.

It also creates the pivotal moment of truth for President Obama. Will he come up with his own counterproposal, or will he simply demagogue the issue by railing against “savage” Republican cuts and ignoring the long-term fiscal realities? Does he have a sustainable vision for government, or will he just try to rise above the fray while Nancy Pelosi and others attack Ryan? ...