Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2010

A SLOW, HANGING CURVE.... When congressional Democrats taunt their Republican colleagues about lacking ideas, substance heft, and specific policy proposals, Dems know they'll have an advantage either way.

Either the GOP will produce nothing (in which case Republicans are the "party of no" with no new ideas), or they'll produce an actual plan (in which case Dems can point out how deeply crazy Republican proposals really are).

Take this week, for example. President Obama unveiled the administration's budget, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, released a budget blueprint of his own. The Republican's budget plan is, as we talked about the other day, more than a little radical.

First, it calls for big cuts in Social Security benefits for everyone currently under 55 years of age. On top of the cuts it also calls for privatizing Social Security.

Basically the exact plan President Bush tried in 2005. Next, it calls for the full privatization and phasing out of Medicare. It'll be replaced by a system of vouchers in which instead of getting Medicare you get a voucher to buy un-reformed private insurance [with benefits that fail to keep up with growing health care costs].

Weirdly, with all that, the draft GOP budget doesn't get the federal budget into surplus until 2083, which seems like a pretty long time. But isn't this sort of a big deal? House Republicans are poised to run in 2010 on slashing or abolishing the two most popular federal government programs -- Social Security and Medicare.

Josh Marshall added that he doesn't know "why Democrats aren't making a bigger deal out of" this.

We can probably all think of plenty of times when Dems pursued dubious election-year strategies, but this really is manna from heaven for a party that's been on the defensive for quite a long while.

How can you tell? The House Republican leadership doesn't know how to deal with their own budget guy's plan.

This is deeply entertaining.

House Republicans are at pains to point out that a far-reaching budget roadmap unveiled by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), isn't their budget, but when asked today at a press conference what about Ryan's budget he disagreed with, Minority Leader John Boehner couldn't name anything.

"Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you," Boehner said.

Despite the apparent lack of substantive disagreement, though, Boehner wants to keep the Ryan plan from sticking to the GOP.

"Paul Ryan, who's the ranking member on our budget committee, has done an awful lot of work in putting together his roadmap," Boehner said. "But it's his. And I know the Democrats are trying to say that it's the Republican leadership. But they know that's not the case."

This isn't going to work. For one thing, Ryan has said the Republican leadership has been supportive of his plan. For another, Boehner can't very well distance himself from a budget blueprint and then say he can't think of any parts he disagrees with.

But perhaps most importantly, Boehner and the GOP leadership made Paul Ryan their go-to guy on the budget. Unless they plan to replace Ryan as the ranking member on the Budget Committee, it's a little late to throw him under the bus.

As for Dems taking a swing at this slow, hanging curve, I received a press release this morning, talking about a media call being held this afternoon by House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson (D-Conn.), House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), and two members of the House Budget Committee, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.).

The purpose of the call was to discuss "Republican plans to privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare."

Expect to hear more about this. The alternative is political malpractice.

Steve Benen 2:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Josh Marshall added that he doesn't know "why Democrats aren't making a bigger deal out of" this.

Um, because the Dems are pathetic losers?

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on February 4, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Expect to hear more about this. The alternative is political malpractice.

If they are smart, the Dims can gain a DOUBLE win on this one:

1) Show Ryan and his budget to be a repulsive and unworkable road map to disaster.

2) utilize the Ryan budget so they can serve their corporate masters, betray the american peeps, and triangulate themselves from having visibly blood-stained hands...

Whatta country!

Posted by: neill on February 4, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Well at least the ld tea baggers wouldn't have to worry about socialized healthcare anymore.

Posted by: Saint Zak on February 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like Plouffe may have been brought back not a moment too soon.

Obama has been on fire, and needs to stay on fire. Let Rahm run the bricks and mortar store and get out there and sell, sell, sell.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

For another, Boehner can't very well distance himself from a budget blueprint and then say he can't think of any parts he disagrees with.

Wanna bet?

Posted by: martin on February 4, 2010 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

So Boehner is back to saying the Republican'ts are back to being a party of can't produce ideas or they are the party of can't defend the ideas they produce.

Posted by: Lance on February 4, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Suppose the parties and ideologies were reversed. This would be the number one topic of conversation and Democrats would be laughed off the stage.

Alas, it isn't. And the reason, as we all know, is that Democrats don't have the megaphones. Press releases? Great but they don't do much. About the only thing Dems do have is money, but you'll have to spend millions to have much impact.

As long as we're playing on this kind of playing field (always uphill), we need to figure out a communications' strategy that works better than the one we have now. It will never compete with the Republicans' but it could use vast improvement.

Posted by: walt on February 4, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, wait: Wasn't it just last Summer that Republicans were screaming about the Democrats' plans to dismantle Medicare?

Posted by: Kris on February 4, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, wait: Wasn't it just last Summer that Republicans were screaming about the Democrats' plans to dismantle Medicare?

History has shown that everything the repubs "scream about" is something they are doing themselves.

Posted by: G.Kerby on February 4, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

If you give a guy a noose and a box, is it really your fault when he strangles himself? If Dems don't take advantage of this they are fools.

Posted by: Karinthy on February 4, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Press releases? Great but they don't do much.

Uhh, Walt? The press release was to announce a "media call" involving four Congressmen; including two on the budget committee. And if the wording of the release is any indication of how strong they're attacking this moronic budget, I think they have a better communications plan than you're giving them credit for.

Overall, hitting Republicans for wanting to privatize Social Security is one move that Congressional Dems seem to know fairly well, and it looks like they're using it again. And now that Republicans made Medicare a sacred cow last year, they added that to our arsenal too.

Every time Republicans try to screw with Social Security, they get burned; including the Great Ronald Reagan, who got burned so badly he ended up raising taxes to save it. I have no idea why Dems don't get more credit for attacking Republicans on this issue. Republicans got hammered in 2005 for doing this and unless they do some quick backpedaling now, they're going to get hammered again. But instead of getting any credit for it, Dems are being smeared for not doing what they've already announced they're doing.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 4, 2010 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Every single House Democratic candidate should ask, at every opportunity, whether his/her opponent supports the Republican plan to end Medicare, and if the opponent tries to get out of it by claiming that this isn't the plan, whether the opponent believes that the House Republican budget leader should be fired. And don't let up or let them weasel out: either they have to say they're for gutting Medicare or they have to attack their own party.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 4, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Niell, your non-stop carping about Democrats is very tiresome. I'm beginning to think that you are a GOP tool who's sole purpose is to discourage progressives from supporting the only party that is willing to advance any of their goals.

Posted by: AK Liberal on February 4, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I love it when republicans scream about how all the "great" ideas they have are being ignored, but distance themselves as soon as anyone starts paying attention.

Truth is, you have to put a gun to the GOP leadership's collective head before they adopt any policy position. They would rather avoid doing that so they can keep their options open. It's all about "not taking a stand."

Posted by: bdop4 on February 4, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The alternative is political malpractice.

Unfortunately, the alternative has been pretty much SOP for the Dems for the past 40 years or so.

I miss Howard Dean...

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on February 4, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

That over 55 voting block must be really huge.

Some republicans won't gut SS/medicare for people over 55 and some democrats think the best health care reform is to give medicare only to people over 55.

Posted by: JeffF on February 4, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Without real insurance reforms the voucher idea for seniors on medicare is one of the worst ideas yet.

If insurance companies are still allowed to deny coverage, have unrestrained ability to raise premiums and drop people from their plans, there will be millions more people dieing needlessly. After all, why would insurance companies want to cover people who have the highest percentage of illnesses.

And if they do cover seniors, the premiums would be so expensive only the richest ones would be able to afford it.

Insurance companies = greedy bastards.

Posted by: wbn on February 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Here is the sound you hear when the Dems are at the plate and the opposition throws a hanging curve right in their wheelhouse:

"Whiff."

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on February 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I have to admit, I've been a little slow in understanding what the fuss is over social versus private, democrat versus republican, christian freedoms and others, good versus evil, right versus left, etc.

I forget that our views of the world are bipolar and opposite of each other, a dance between hating abortion, and hating it yet embracing he painful necessity of it at times.

It's clear that anything less than privatizing is welcomed, so help us god.

Think about it.

Making anything federal into socialism requires only the tiniest shift in semantics.

Believing in non-Union and only investable commodities. (old civil war pains)

We say we can't have healthcare yet we can build bombs, planes, and other weapons of mass production.

We say privatizing social security will be more secure.

No. There has to be a balance between the people and the State in which they reside, that goods must be sold but produced as well.

Government can be a powerful juice that many wish to squeeze sustenance from but profits as well.

Bankers got bonuses via governmental funds, they had to suck the tits of us all to survive, live to receive obscene bonus into the foireseeable future.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 4, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

That over 55 voting block must be really huge.

It isn't so much huge as participatory; voters over 55 have historically been far more likely to vote than those under 55. Hence Social Security's long-standing status as the '3rd rail' of US politics.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on February 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

@AK Liberal

If the dems don't do anything with the tremendous power they have it's not worth supporting them. You only end up defending someone who, more than anything, wants to keep his/her job. Better to let someone else get a shot at it. Maybe the repubs just haven't screwed the country up enough (yet) for a real change of heart.

When Obama was elected I reduced my criteria for success to health care. If he could reform it, we all win, and perhaps the pendulum really would swing. Otherwise, let's move on. I'm getting too old to watch another dem give a "The era of big government is over" speech.

Posted by: rramos on February 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK
History has shown that everything the repubs "scream about" is something they are doing themselves.

More specifically, when the GOP screams that the Democrats are "secretly" doing something, it is nearly always something that Republicans are openly doing themselves.

I presume the reason they do this is to inoculate themselves so that our idiotic political media, rather than reporting the actual fact of their misdeeds, will just make it a "he said/she said" story.

Posted by: Redshift on February 4, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans do this because they know they can do it with impunity. The media is instinctively deferential to them, and turns to them to set the message.

The feckless Democrats have no message operation of their own to speak of, and the Republicans know it. So they can get away with this.

Posted by: Steve on February 4, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

The feckless Democrats have no message operation of their own to speak of, and the Republicans know it. So they can get away with this.

Guys? The current debate is going on because we control large majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as the presidency. And the debate isn't over whether we get Republican policies or Democratic policies, but whether the Republicans can stop us from getting our policies; and the best the Republicans can possibly hope for is to stop us, as they have no ability to pass their agenda.

Essentially, Dems are playing a game in which they are always on offense, and the objective is to see how many times we can score before it's over. And the reason we're in this position is because we kicked their asses in the last two elections. And so while they might be able to prevent us from winning, they have no chance of winning themselves and are only playing for a draw. And at election time, a draw might not be good enough for them, and they're currently doing worse than Dems are.

Thus said, could we FINALLY do away with this meme that Republicans always win and Dems have no messaging? After all, this post highlights at the end how Dems are already planning to beat up Republicans over Ryan's budget, while Republicans are caught flat-footed and unsure of how to deal with the "Party of No" theme without having to support stupid policies like Ryan's. In other words, we're looking good heading into this debate and the Republicans are losing. I fail to see how this isn't obvious, yet reading this messageboard makes me feel like it's still 2003 and everything's hopeless.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 4, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall added that he doesn't know "why Democrats aren't making a bigger deal out of" this.

But we're blogging about it! Furiously blogging about it!

Posted by: Cazart on February 4, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Doctor Biobrain, I'm skeptical of your optimism (as much as I hope you're right) simply because Republicans are - and have been - utterly incoherent on policy. Despite that, they're prohibitive favorites this November.

When is this tide going to turn? You know most Americans don't pay attention to the news. They pay attention to the ruckus, and Republicans are masters at that game.

Posted by: walt on February 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Beat up on Ryan if you want but at least his numbers add up. As soon as the administration or the Democrats produce numbers that would actually balance, there will be a basis for discussion.

The President's budget is quite instructive on Democrat's view of the long-term fiscal situation.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/econ_analyses.pdf

Pages 48 and 49 provide a good perspective on what the OMB sees as the long term scenario given the President's budget...that would the the 2011 law line.

Posted by: SteveinCH on February 4, 2010 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Dems should hit hard with a new strategy, a take-no-prisoners approach. Find some compelling people and cases and throw them onto the media wall again and again until they stick. An ad like:

"Susan, a stay-at-home mother of 3 [picture of lovely mom and cute kids], was diagnosed with _____ in 2002. Aetna's death panel decided that her life was not worth the $______ that it would cost to treat her illness. Susan died in 2005 and her children [pic of weeping kids alone] are now motherless. Isn't it time to take the profit out of death?"

Posted by: GringoNoraca on February 4, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

rramos, I'm as pissed off about the stalled HCR bill as anyone. But, I think Democrats have actually done quite alot in the past year. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Oh, yeah. They passed the Lilly Ledbetter act and the President is pushing Congress to repeal DADT. And let's not forget that the administration is revitalizing the enforcement efforts of EPA, OSHA, and FDA. But, other than that I'm sure that Niell is right, there's no difference between the parties.

Posted by: AK Liberal on February 4, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK
walt@5:00: Doctor Biobrain, I'm skeptical of your optimism (as much as I hope you're right) simply because Republicans are - and have been - utterly incoherent on policy. Despite that, they're prohibitive favorites this November.

When is this tide going to turn? You know most Americans don't pay attention to the news. They pay attention to the ruckus, and Republicans are masters at that game.

I think it's also important to at least give some thought to the possibility that this *is* the Republican agenda: stopping government from functioning.

I've been saying this for over 20 years. When Gingrich shut down Congress in 1995, I completely freaked out because it was a fulfillment of what I'd come to expect from a Party that represents corporate power and little else. I "freaked out" because I was just a kid and had come to think of my theory as nothing more than youthful paranoia.

It wasn't. It happened... and nothing has occurred since then to dissuade me from this conclusion. Yes, they make government grow when they're in power like a spoiled rich kid might run up his parents' credit cards in an effort do destroy them financially.

In this light, the Bush administration was the most successful conservative administration in history.

Posted by: JTK on February 4, 2010 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Like shooting fish in a barrel: "[My opponent] and his fellow Republicans want to hand over YOUR Social Security and Medicare to Wall Street!"

Posted by: buddy66 on February 4, 2010 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall added that he doesn't know "why Democrats aren't making a bigger deal out of" this.

Or how and why we managed to elect a Democratic leadership that on a good day still might not be able to figure out how to roll a rock down a hill. What is wrong with these people?

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on February 5, 2010 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

...and if Dennis Kucinich presented a budget with universal health care and a balanced budget paid for by profound defense budget cuts we couldn't find a dozen Senators, many in leadership positions, that also would not back the budget even though the concepts are all sound?

It's ONE congressman floating a summary of party priorities that have no realistic chance of passing but could attract hostile attention from voters.

Sorry, Mr. Benen. Nothing to see here.

Ryan may be handpicked, but he can be hand unpicked. Plausible deniability is thoroughly intact.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 5, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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