Watching Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on talk shows over the weekend left me feeling empty.
It took me back to the Republican convention, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made my heart soar. Here at last was someone talking straight, ready to level with the American people, to tell them - especially our seniors- about the tough road ahead and the tough choices we face, about the urgency of our fiscal problems and how we can move with urgency to make those tough choices.
Christie said, "It's been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues." He said we had to lead as his mother insisted he live, "not by avoiding truths, especially the hard ones, but by facing up to them and being the better for it."
He said, "We believe in telling seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements." And he said, "Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy."
After the weekend, I decided I had to look to Christie, the avatar of speaking the truth and telling Americans the hard facts. So here are some questions for Gov. Christie; I would be happy for answers from any Republican in Congress if he does not reply:
. Romney and Ryan have said that balancing the budget and ending that torrent of debt requires a frontal assault on government spending - and especially those entitlements. That starts with the Medicare reform outlined by Ryan and endorsed by Romney. But that reform doesn't start for 10 years - and in the meantime, Romney and Ryan have pledged not to touch one dime of the Medicare or Social Security benefits going to current seniors. Please explain how you will urgently tackle our debt problem and our overburdened entitlements by not touching a dime of them for 10 years.
. Romney has put back into his budget the $716 billion in Medicare cuts that were in the Ryan budget - the same $716 billion for which he and you rip Obama for including as part of the revenue to pay for the 2010 health law. The Ryan budget relied on that $716 billion to reduce debt, but even with that included, the plan does not balance the federal budget until the mid-2030s. Without including the $716 billion, when would the Ryan-Romney budget reach balance?
. Medicare actuaries say the aforementioned $716 billion taken out of Medicare by Obama would extend Medicare solvency by eight years. Taking it out, as Romney would, means the Medicare Trust Fund would be insolvent by 2016. How would Romney make Medicare solvent in 2016 while still meeting his promise not to touch the benefits of current Medicare recipients? Would he increase payroll taxes? If so, when will he give that hard truth to Grover Norquist and all of those who have taken the no-taxes pledge?
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.