Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 11, 2011

WHAT PAUL RYAN'S CONSTITUENTS THINK, AND WHY IT MATTERS.... Rep. Paul Ryan's (R) Wisconsin district isn't competitive. Over the last decade, his most competitive race was the one he won by "only" 26 points. Last year, the margin was 38 points.

But when the Associated Press checked in with some of the far-right congressman's constituents, they were aware of their representative's plan to eliminate Medicare, and they weren't exactly on board with the plan.

Brian Krutsch has been long one of many automatic votes here for Rep. Paul Ryan.... But this week, admiration has been tinged with apprehension as one of Ryan's signature ideas -- ending Medicare's status as a full, guaranteed benefit for senior citizens -- suddenly took a step toward reality.

"I think that's one of the things they should probably leave alone -- you know -- unless it's absolutely necessary," Krutsch said as he took a break from reviewing job openings at the Rock County Job Center. "Old people need help with medical bills. There's too many people under-insured right now -- especially people like myself right now who don't have insurance." [...]

Howard Gage, a 74-year-old Medicare recipient who owns a three-person video-production company, said he has voted for Ryan in all seven races, still supports the congressman and likes him as a person. But, he added, it's hard to accept that fixing the budget should mean that his family wouldn't receive the same Medicare benefits that he relies on.

"It bothers me that my kids or grandchildren might be affected by whatever has to be done" to curb spending, he said.

At face value, it's interesting that those who elected Ryan aren't at all sold on Ryan's vision. If they're not on board, it stands to reason more vulnerable Republican lawmakers from more competitive districts have reason to be concerned, and may very well balk at embracing such a radical move that won't pass anyway.

But there's more to it than that. As Greg Sargent explained, "These folks are worried about doing away with Medicare as we know it, but they are grappling with whether or not this will be necessary to put the nation on firmer fiscal footing."

Right. Reading the piece, it seems these folks want to do the right thing. They're uncomfortable with an extreme overhaul of Medicare, but they're willing to listen to what's "absolutely necessary."

But the point is, the privatization of Medicare isn't "necessary" at all. It won't even lower health care costs. Paul Ryan's plan is ostensibly about debt reduction, but even that's a charade -- he's going after entitlements and other domestic priorities while slashing tax rates for the rich.

Or as Greg added, these voters "are proceeding from the premise that Ryan's Medicare proposal is about fixing our fiscal situation in a way that would spread the pain around evenly -- and not aware that it would shift the burden for fixing our fiscal situation downward, in keeping with conservative tax-cutting ideology."

Guess what message Democrats should be pushing right now? Or put another way, what do you suppose those folks in Southeastern Wisconsin would say if they knew going after Medicare wouldn't be at all necessary if Ryan weren't so desperate to give millionaires another massive tax break?

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Or put another way, what do you suppose those folks in Southeastern Wisconsin would say if they knew going after Medicare wouldn't be at all necessary if Ryan weren't so desperate to give millionaires another massive tax break?

I suggest that we tell them. Hell, let's tell EVERYONE.

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 11, 2011 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Or put another way, what do you suppose those folks in Southeastern Wisconsin would say if they knew going after Medicare wouldn't be at all necessary if Ryan weren't so desperate to give millionaires another massive tax break?

How would they find out? It's not like they're gonna tune into a channel that's not FOX.

Posted by: bignose on April 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

What Democrats SHOULD be working on is a way to eliminate the excesses of the program while still ensuring that Medicare recipients continue to receive it.

I can't believe there are no better ideas out there than Ryan's...

For once, can Dems be innovative and first to responsive instead of holding off the GOP to maintain a status quo that isn't sustainable long-term?

Posted by: JEA on April 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Right like to present the Dems as un-American, but the label fits themselves much better. Ryan's guru for all this slash and burn is Ayn Rand, a Russian refugee on the make whose so-called ideas are all dumbed-down Nietzsche. If people want to find a Manchurian candidate in all this, they should be looking at Ryan, not Obama.

Posted by: davidp on April 11, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I have complete confidence in the Dems ability to screw up the messaging on this one. Step one: point out how courageous Ryan is and go from there.

Posted by: LJ on April 11, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I have no confidence in the Democrats being able to message this - or anything, for that matter.

They could fuck up a "STOP" sign.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 11, 2011 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

c u n d gulag,

If you don't have any confidence in the National Democrats messaging this issue (and I don't) why don't we all message it.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 11, 2011 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

What Democrats SHOULD be working on is a way to eliminate the excesses of the program while still ensuring that Medicare recipients continue to receive it.

What the Dems should be doing is:
1)Repeating over and over that the problem isn't Medicare, it is the US medical system. And that "Obamacare" was the first small step in fixing the system and saving Medicare.

2) Make every republican congress man answer for Ryan by fielding a candidate in every district. Even if, especially if, it is a kamikaze mission. Do to Ryan what they did to Nancy Pelosi, except the Dems can do it truthfully.

Posted by: martin on April 11, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a 52 year old California Democrat and I was just discussing this with a 53 year old Mississippi Republican. She hates Ryan's Medicare plan as much as I do. Bipartisan agreement!

Posted by: Stella Barbone on April 11, 2011 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't have any confidence in the National Democrats messaging this issue (and I don't) why don't we all message it.

You mean instead of sittin' on our asses and bitchin' and moanin' about Obama and other Dems who don't do what we think they should?!?

Hell, that wouldn't be any fun at all!!

Posted by: chi res on April 11, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

@JEA - Democrats have ALREADY done that! It's called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka HCR aka to Ryan's constituents, "Obamacare."

The final version of the healhcare reform bill extends the life of Medicare and streamlines healthcare costs (CBO-certified) - especially when it comes to excessive costs and waste.

Ryan's roadmap/blueprint is not a new idea from him. It's the same old meaningless busywork Ryan trotted out last year at the GOP luncheon, and Obama issued Ryan a schooling on why his "roadmap" is a bunch of dangerous nonsense.

If Ryan were serious about addressing the deficit, he would have voted for HCR, instead of trying to repeal it, an act which would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit (CBO-certified).

Posted by: June on April 11, 2011 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Both people quoted were from the Janesville area. I I don't believe Ryan has ever carried Janesville, his strength and popularity is from a carefully crafted district that includes Milwaukee and Racine area communities. That is where the large percentages come from.

Posted by: Tom on April 11, 2011 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Steve here does a good job. So does maha, Steve M., Digby, LG&M, etc. But that's not enough.

It would be nice if the people the MSM have to depend on for their jobs, our D politicians, were able to come up with some langauge they came up with, or someone like a Democratic Luntz, and not a putz like me.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 11, 2011 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Paul Ryan's Death Panels.

They did all of the leg work for us on this one, only in this case, claiming Ryan is going to kill grandma is true.

Posted by: doubtful on April 11, 2011 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

TAX increases for the wealthy are what is needed to save the government. Nothing more. BUT Republicans would have us believe cutting the government which means putting people out of work and on to unemployment is better for the economy than not.  They gave is the lie of Trickle Down economics.  Now they give us the lie of budget cuts.

The goals of the Republicans since 1980 have been to (1) increase the income of the über rich, (2) dismantle the federal government, (3) blur church state lines.

(1) Republicans destroyed the economy by lax financial regulation coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy which forced great deficits upon the country. The proportion of income going to the upper 1%  in American income has increased from 10% to 25% since 1980.   Now they want to give that 5% of the populations which owns 85% of the country's wealth even more money .

(2) Reagan started the gutting of the federal rules protecting the workers, consumers, and the poor so gigantic corporations could continue to irresponsibly exploit those who have to work.  Incomes since then have stagnated and in some cases like those for auto workers have even gone backwards. The rich have had a free ride since Reagan when the highest tax rates were cut from 70% to 35%.  Now the country and the economy are in trouble. It is time to tax excessive wealth.  It is time the rich pay their fair share. 

(3) The excessively wealthy religious, whose wives carry Hermes handbags, drive Mercedes, and wear Rolex watches when people are unemployed, losing their houses, and cannot afford college or health insurance have been abetted by the Republicans who used religion and moral issues to convince people to vote against their own economic self interest.

I would be mortified to wear a $1000 pair of shoes when 1/4 of Arizona kids live in poverty. Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.  America was never more prosperous than when taxes on the rich were at their highest and the wealthy paid their fair share.  Tax the rich, I say, and use the money to repair our infrastructure creating good jobs for good wages for good people while protecting those least fortunate.

My cartoon showing Mega Corporations, the uber rich, and the ultra hard right wing dancing on the middle class, poor and elderly expresses my feelings Link: Celebrating Paul Ryan's Budget Gutting Medicaid and Medicare  on the subject. Phaëthon makes an appearance with a story about scorpions and mice.  In general I rather like it.

The point being, if you continue to make a greater percentage of the public  poorer, less healthy, and less educated how do you expect your culture to evolve, grow and flourish?  The dancers in my toon may realize this, but like the scorpion are incapable of doing anything different than what they do because of the constraints they are under.

These include for the The Mega Corps short term gain, for the über rich protecting their income sources, for the ultra right it's their rigid ideology.

 A massive transfer of wealth to the upper classes does nothing for society.  To Repeat, Trickle Down Economics was an experiment which did not work.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 11, 2011 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

What people should be doing is working to elect better Democrats. Period.

It makes no sense to keep "hoping" that Third-Way Democrats will finally do the right thing. They never will. All these conversations about what the Democrats "should do" are completely pointless. These Democrats will never do what you want.

You wouldn't waste your time hoping that Boehner or Cantor or Bachmann, etc. will wake up one day, see the light, and decide to do the the thing. So why hope a bunch of Third-Way Democrats will suddenly morph into liberals? It ain't happening.

Posted by: square1 on April 11, 2011 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone see this article in the NYT this weekend?
Titled The Drought Is Over (at Least for C.E.O.’s)
The Chart:

What the fuck does someone do to deserve 84 Million Dollars a year? (top of the scale)
How do you make and spend that much money ?
How do you sleep at night?
These are the people the Republicans are giving tax cuts to.

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on April 11, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Cundy, for mentioning maha - Great work and little credit. Kinda slipped by mind.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 11, 2011 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

""It bothers me that my kids or grandchildren might be affected by whatever has to be done" to curb spending, he said."

So who's kids did you think would be affected? It all has to come from somewhere. I think that's the key takeaway- everyone's in favor of deficit reduction until they learn they'll be personally affected.

Posted by: Jurgan on April 11, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Stalin would have loved Ryan's constituents.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 11, 2011 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Paul Ryan's election margins come in large part from having extraordinarily weak competition from the Democrats. Just because he wins big, that doesn't mean he's really that popular.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on April 11, 2011 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

We can assume that Ryan's budget proposals will be presented to congressmen's constituents all over the country at well-publicized Town Hall meetings with angry seniors, yes? No? Really?

Posted by: demisod on April 11, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to be an irritant, but the cold hard fact is that if we do not change Medicare and Social Security, then both programs will consume almost the entire federal budget in 30 years or so.

Defense? Gone.

Head Start? Nada.

EPA? Can't afford it.

The other hard fact is that there aren't enough "rich" people to solve this problem. We are currently running annual deficits at close to $1.5 trillion. If we took [taxed] every dime after the first $200,000 of annual income, we would raise a little over $1 trillion.

How do we raise the rest? Taxing the middle class. That is where the real money is.

Most Republicans and every Democrat has opted to kick the fiscal can down the road. In doing so they have created the impresion that our deficits can be solved by minor tweaking in the budget to eliminate "waste, fraud and duplication".

Only now are people waking up to realize the size and scope of our fiscal difficulties.....that will indeed require a complete rethinking of Medicare and Social Security if we are to have any hope of returning to fiscal solvency.

Posted by: Dann on April 11, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

"What do you suppose those folks in Southeastern Wisconsin would say if they knew going after Medicare wouldn't be at all necessary if Ryan weren't so desperate to give millionaires another massive tax break?"

Seriously, the GOP just tied a millstone around their neck and then handed it the Dems, asking if they'd hold the stone for them.

No, seriously - the pitch is very slow and steady, heading right for the donkey at home plate.

Yes, seriously, the GOP just pinned a note to their backside saying "kick me."

Will the Democrats even under these conditions manage to screw everything up?

Posted by: Jimo on April 11, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

The scary thing is that corporations have largely ended health care subsidies for retirees, forcing them to rely MORE on Medicare than ever before.

A good reform would be to allow Medicare to negotiate for drugs for part D.

Posted by: Bobsled on April 11, 2011 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

re Dann @ 4:11 PM.

Until you dragged in Social Security, you almost sounded real, but by doing that you have exposed yourself as either a troll or someone sadly misinformed. The two are NOT mutually incompatible, by the way.
All the brou-ha-ha about Social Security is because the Republican/Teabaggers don't want to repay the money they "borrowed" from the SS Trust Fund. If benefits are cut and the retirement age raised, they won't have to.
Amazingly enough, we couldn't "afford" the War of Southern Treason, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, the Cold War, Viet Nam and the first Gulf War without raising taxes. Why didn't the Republican/Teabaggers raise taxes for Afghanistan and Iraq?
Look at ANY responsible economist's chart of what the present deficit consists of and you'll discover that over HALF of the deficit is due ENTIRELY to the Bush tax cuts. Return the tax rates to what they were in 2000 and most of the "deficit problem", or at least 50% of it, disappears and we don't need to tax anyone at 100% on any part of their income. Put one or two marginal rates into the tax code and the "deficit problem" dwindles even further.
Perhaps the greatest economic boom this country ever experienced took place between 1946 and 1960, when the highest maginal rates were 90% on incomes over $100,000. Those high marginal rates weren't designed to grab the income of the wealthy; they were designed to PREVENT what we have increasingly seen for the past four decades: the concentration of wealth into a smaller and smaller group of people; ie, the rich getting richer while the middle and lower classes get poorer.
No business, faced with prospect of paying someone $10 or 20 million dollars per annum only to see 70 or 90 percent of that go to the Federal government, would pay such a salary. The money that WOULD have gone, and presently IS going, to a CEO would, instead, be used differently.
It would be invested. Or used on R&D. Or possibly used to pay increased dividends to shareholders or increased wages to employees. Increased dividends and/or wages mean increased spending power. Increased spending power means a growing economy. A growing economy means an expanded tax base. See where I'm going here? An expanded tax base means, potentially at least, lower taxes for EVERYONE while increasing total revenues for state, local and national governments. It means NO "deficit problem".
It also means, if you're NOT a troll, that you've been had...

Posted by: Doug on April 11, 2011 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

You're an idiot. First of all, cherry picking one or two, or even a handful of quotes from constituents doesn't say anything about the feelings of a district. Districts include 700,000 plus people.

Add to that what Ryan's district really is. He may keep winning big, but the district itself is really a swing district. Its PVI is only R+2. This isn't some kind of landslide Republican district... anything below R+3 or D+3 is more or less evenly split with only a very very minor lean to it. So, even if that quote was indicative of the district, it says nothing about what the people in some "radical right wing" district think... it is a swing district.

And, that is of course the real point here. I can find any five people in Nancy Pelosi's district that will drone on about the Tea Party and how insane Pelosi and the Democrats are for any number of reasons. Doesn't mean anything about the makeup of that, one of the most heavily liberal districts in the country.

And, on top of that, this guy hardly sounds like a "skeptic"... he sounds like he worries that the plan might be harmful, but isn't really sure (and was likely driven by the leading question he was asked in the first place). I think this guy perfectly sums up the district Ryan is in... moderate... independent... thoughtful... willing to take a stand on an issue, but also appreciative of somebody else who stands for something, even if it isn't the same as what they believe.

So, in summation, this entire article was beyond pointless and stupid. Might want to stop pretending to be a political analyst, you aren't very good at it.

Posted by: Wisconsinite on April 11, 2011 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

@Bobsled - corporations have ended health care for retirees because the government largely took over that function with Medicare. What do you suppose is about to happen with health care for employees?

@Doug - I'll certainly be glad when leftists decide to abandon the tactic impugning someone's intelligence or their humanity in lieu of making a simple rebuttal.

Where is the money going to come from to pay off those bonds? All of the tax increases that you mention wouldn't solve the deficit. The further out we go, the more tax increases we will need to repay those "loans".

Increasing taxes will necessarily result in a slower economy, fewer jobs, slower income growth, all the bad stuff. Do we really want to turn into a place like France where unemployment for those under the age of 30 is unacceptably high?

The problem is compounded when you consider that Medicare is in even worse condition, the unfunded costs associated with Medicare Part D, and the interest payments on our growing national debt.

30 years out, we will only be able to fund Medicare, Social Security, and our national debt. Tweaking the tax code a little won't fix that.

Sure we had higher tax rates years ago. We also had more tax exemptions and other ways to keep money from being taxed. The long term effective income tax rate has been roughly 20% since WWII. Even with those ludicrously high tax rates, we never generated any greater percentage of taxes as a function of GDP.

I'll close by noting that I and most of the non-leftists that I know WERE complaining about deficits during Iraq and Afghanistan. We noted that the GOP led Congress was attempting to spend like drunken Democrats with earmarks and special projects galore. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were responsible for less than half of the deficits during Mr. Bush's term in office.

The other half was the result of irresponsible spending practices of the GOP. Unfortunately, we have the experience from 2006 to 2010 to tell us that the GOP is not the home of the MOST irresponsible spending practices. That title belongs to the Democrats.

People have been complaining about Congressional largess for most of my adult life. Had we privatized Social Security and Medicare back in the 1980s....when it would have been easy....we wouldn't be in this mess. Now the problems are much harder to solve. Pity y'all didn't listen to use a couple decades ago.


Posted by: Dann on April 12, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK
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