Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2011

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF GOP FEARS OVER RYAN PLAN.... Congressional Republicans clearly like Paul Ryan's radical House budget plan; the question is whether they're ready to put their careers on the line by voting for it. As of last week, there was a fair amount of GOP anxiety over this.

That's a healthy response. Paul Begala noted the other day, "I hope every vulnerable Republican in Congress signs on to the Ryan plan to kill Medicare, because we will beat 'em like a bad piece of meat." Non-partisan election analyst Charlie Cook thinks the plan may even put the GOP's House majority in jeopardy.

With that in mind, the New York Times is characterizing support for the Republican budget proposal a "potentially defining" vote.

Republicans acknowledge that the vote is risky, and party strategists have warned House leaders about the dangers, aides said. But Republicans are calculating that the political ground has shifted, making the public, concerned about the mounting national debt, receptive to proposals to rein in costs by reshaping the program.

Given that dismantling Medicare, as the House GOP proposes, is wildly unpopular, Republican expectations appear to be wildly out of touch. Indeed, at a certain level, the party must understand this -- the GOP based much of its 2010 strategy on scaring the bejesus out of seniors, running attack ads saying Democrats "cut" Medicare.

Six months later, these same Republicans intend to eliminate Medicare altogether, replacing it with a privatized voucher system, shifting greater costs onto the elderly, and applying the difference to tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

GOP lawmakers who aren't afraid of this vote must not be paying attention.

The angle to keep an eye on is whether the White House inadvertently lends Republicans a hand.

President Obama is expected to enter the debate over entitlement spending in a speech on Wednesday and could offer his own views on how to control Medicare costs. But he is expected to go nowhere near as far as Republicans did in the Ryan budget.

Republicans say the willingness of the White House to talk about entitlement changes could reinforce the Republican claim that steps need to be taken to preserve Medicare, limiting the ability of Democrats to attack and making the debate mainly about what the steps should be.

It's a garbage argument, of course, since the GOP plan doesn't cut costs and is really just looking for ways to cut taxes, not the deficit, but Republicans would still love to use Obama as cover. ("Even the president agrees with us about the need to 'reform' the system....")

It's something White House officials would be wise to remember when planning for tomorrow.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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When hasn't Obama validated the Republicans' worldview at some level?

Posted by: tell me on April 12, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

This is a political softball for anyone with an ounce of competence.

Posted by: Holmes on April 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

If White House officials (from the boss on down) were wise, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. So Steve had better not hold his breath.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on April 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is a defining moment. Either we use this as a massive club to destroy the Repukeliscum, or they destroy us and the American middle class. They have done us the favor of giving us the means to their destruction. Will the Democrats use it, or will Obama do the bipartisanshit thing and kill the Democratic Party for the next 40 years?

Posted by: POed Lib on April 12, 2011 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be too sure that it will turn off voters. It is really scary sometimes just how easy it is to brainwash the right wing.

Posted by: worcestergirl on April 12, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the public won't form any opinion other than the media mantra, "It's a bold plan."

Posted by: Danp on April 12, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

The only Democrat I am not worried about is Obama. He will take care of himself. I am worried about the Congressional Democrats. They seem to be focused on the President. Instead, they should be working hard to take advantage of the Ryan gift. It remains to be seen if they know how. Right now they seem to be dithering much like the "professional left." This is a gift people, take advantage of it. Don't whine that the President isn't taking advantage. We don't need the President to do anything in this situation. We need to take advantage. I am looking at you Nancy Pelosi. You too Harry Reid. And mostly I am looking at the DNC.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 12, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

from TS Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

Posted by: walt on April 12, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

With every Conservative MSM member, and even some fairly indepenent ones, giving cover to 'this very serious "Privatizing Ryan" plan,' I don't think it will take long for the RepubliConmen to have that turd polished, sauteed, covered in gravy, and ready for consumption by the ignorant masses.

And the Democrats answer will be to fall back on the 'A-hole Simpleton/Festering Boils' plan.

There are some good Liberal plans out there.

If only the first reaction of the Whoreporatist Democrats wasn't to look right...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 12, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

From everything I've read, the Ryan plan comes across as the latest edition of the Book of Official Rules for Dumbball.

This the game they play when the Republicans attempt to over reach. It is just incredible that they get to play it as long as they do. I mean, they had a open playing field during 2001-2006 and even then the 2007 season was unfavorable for every
game going into extra innings. Although, in early 2005, social security didn't get privatized and by near the end of 2005 one of the cities was underwater.

Anyway, the Ryan Plan is a good reason to ridicule the GOP's vision for America, or, to be more exact: to ridicule their lack of vision with constructive solutions and their lack of understanding of what America is about. What they want it to be, in their perfect world view, isn't what this country is. They see rich people getting richer as wagging the dog. But, that is because they don't value what really makes the dog run.

Someone needs to call them on it and right now instead of cozying up to the stupidity that partying is uttering, the Democrats should play the game to win it. It shouldn't take much but I don't know if they're up to the challenge. I await to be proven wrong.

Posted by: guy on April 12, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan's plan (now the republican plan) doesn't cut health care costs. It just transfer the costs to health care consumers and actually reduces funds available for health care by taking funds from low overhead medicare to high overhead private insurance companies, in addition to the declining value of vouchers. Ryan thinks he can split the opposition by keeping traditional medicare for people now over 55. The older people think they can prevent this abomination because they vote in a much larger proportion than the younger population. This may work for a while but as the older cohort dies off they will present less of a problem to the republicans. The republicans probably won't be able to pull this off in the near term but elephants have long memories and the republicans will keep this in their plans until they think they can pass it (maybe closer than we think if they take the senate and presidency next year).

Posted by: wordtypist on April 12, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I can't pretend to understand every angle, but I fear that the R's might win this no matter what the White House says or does.

If I were a devious, lying bastard (ie, a Republican strategist) with access to one of the finest propaganda arms since Goebbels's (ie, Fox News), I would simply pitch this as a gradual 'phase-in', not a drastic restructuring.

You're 63? No problem; everything's gonna stay the same for you. You're 55? Well, a few minor changes are necessary...can't sacrifice our grandkids' future, after all. You're 35? Retirement's a long way off; let the magic of the free market do its work. That's what freedom's all about -- don't want the government interfering in your life, do you?

Human nature being what it is, the greedy, I've-got-mine-screw-you Golden Agers will then stay quiet, and everyone else won't be paying attention -- especially since the spineless opposition (ie, Democrats) don't seem capable of getting down into the mud and scratching some eyes out.

After all, appeals to 'reason' and pointing out that arguments are 'garbage' don't always do it; sometimes more direct action is the only way to get results.

(A favorite author of mine once had one of his characters say, 'XXX is a bully; you have to keep insulting him until he apologizes.')

I'm really tired and very discouraged.

Posted by: JCB on April 12, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"...making the public, concerned about the mounting national debt..."

According to the CBO, Ryan's plan actually adds to the national debt. Why aren't we highlighting that fact. After dismantling a social safety net like Medicare, we will be in worse shape than we currently are.

Posted by: Vandal on April 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

"the public, concerned about the mounting national debt, "

Why are they concerned- because they have been TOLD they are concerned.

-time for a White House 'Give 'em Hell Harry' conversation ("I just tell them the truth, and they think it is hell!")

Posted by: DAY on April 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Really? You're worried the GOP might try to use the WH for cover??? Can you spell RIVKIN? Of course they will and the Dems will whine that the President isn't telling them what to DO! And the media will continue to tout 'this important conversation'. You want CONVERSATION? Quit spinning/pandering to the uneducated and TELL THEM THE TRUTH.

Posted by: SYSPROG on April 12, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

I too am discouraged, and as states cut, cut, cut, and now Ryan wants to cut, cut, cut, I really have to wonder -

What is happening to the people these programs serve? Where do / will the disabled go? In rural WI, now that subsidized bus services have been cut, people need to find $30 / trip to take a bus 25 miles to see specialists - and that is $30 they do not have... and this is jut the tip of the iceberg.

I know we have to address the long-term cost issues, but given that in the story I heard this am, Obama didn't get any cuts to the military, or extract any concessions on even the most egregious tax breaks in this last go round, how are we even going to bargain?

And, who is going to stand up a say that unfettering the health care consumer from govt support, eliminating unions for health care workers,etc., is going to lead to the quiet decline and death of thousands of americans, and not save one f***ing cent?

Posted by: bigtuna on April 12, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

According to the CBO, Ryan's plan actually adds to the national debt. Why aren't we highlighting that fact.

Who ya' gonna believe? The CBO or the nice guy CNN invited to explain it all?

Posted by: Danp on April 12, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Coming Attraction - The Obama plan up next. The perfect foil to make people forget Ryan. The cons will go after Obama's cat food commission plan with a vengeance - Obamacare on steroids.

Posted by: CDW on April 12, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I hope every vulnerable Republican in Congress signs on to the Ryan plan to kill Medicare, because we will beat 'em like a bad piece of meat."

Oh please. So one of the leading Dem strategists says voter time spent on the national debate should be about whether to dismantle Medicare because the Dems will win and you're fine with that Steve?

People only have so much time in a day, and time spent on protected what you have while you're in power is time you will never get back. The opportunity cost is the opportunity lost.

We could be spending time talking about progressive ideas and advancing those causes but nooooo, Steve and Paul want people to waste time instead just because it will get them votes. Or so they think.

Oh by the way, a couple more small pieces of your cherished "ACA" just got rolled back. How's that "we'll incrementally improve once the bill is passed. Just. Pass. The. Damn. Bill." working out for you now, smart guy?

You've now been exposed a Village Steve. By "Villager" we mean someone who wants to hold the levers of power in Washington with no regard to what policies get enacted to help the populace.

If there's another way to spin wishing people waste time on a useless debate in order to win votes then, please, let us all know.

Posted by: Observer on April 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is walking right into the trap the Right set for him. By releasing that morally and fiscally bankrupt Ryan plan, and getting the buffoons in the press to cover for him, they have baited Obama into reacting. Now he going validate the austerity nonsense, which guarantees lower economic growth and a longer recession*, lowering Obama's chances of reelection.

*And yes, I know technically we aren't in a recession any longer, but it is a recession in everything but name.

Posted by: Holmes on April 12, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

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.

My solution is tax them and spend the money on good projects which pay good money to good people for a good days' work. A massive transfer of wealth to the upper classes does nothing for society.  Trickle down was an experiment which did not work.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rhetorical question: where are all the crazed, "keep your gub'mint hands off my Medicare" teabaggers? I would have thought by now they would have thronged Ryan's office with their "don't tread on me" clever signs.

Posted by: June on April 12, 2011 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

June: they have been 'programmed' that way by their Corporate Masters ....... as you know that programing is very selective to what the Corporate Masters want for themselves ....

Posted by: stormskies on April 12, 2011 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

There doesn't need to be an Obama response to the Ryan nonsense, there needs to be a coordinated Democratic response. If the Ryan plan has the full backing of the House Budget committee (Ways and Means), then it should have been unanamiously opposed by the Democratic members of that committee. If,on the other hand, this is a plan which the Heritage Foundation presented to Ryan and it has not yet passed the committee test, it should be completely ignored until all Republicans get behind it. Make all them commit and leave no place to hide when this bomb blows up in their faces. No Democrat should have any public comment on this proposal until it can be labeled as the official Republican position going forward. After that, Democratic congressional leaders should meet with White House and decide on an official unified counterproposal which exploits the weaknesses of the Ryan plan.Obama needs to be patient and wait until the Republicans stand up and declare 'this is what we intend to do, these are our intentions.' Then the President and congressional Democrats can have a field day exposing the official plan for what it is--another giveaway to the rich paid for by everyone else. Patience. Patience. Just give them more rope.

Posted by: sparky on April 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

What continually floors me is the way the Repubs always vote against themselves. Grandma's coming home from the nursing home because Medicaid is gone and the family has to either pony up for the difference or take care of her themselves. And they are OK with that, I guess. Can't have their betters disappointed in the base. They may not be worried about Medicare since most of the teabaggers are over 55, I suspect, but the Medicaid problem will hit them immediately.

Posted by: dianne on April 12, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Something I haven't seen mentioned is that the voucher that Ryan wants to give us is only to cover the premiums that an insurance company would charge. No where is there any requirement for an insurance company to actually set up a policy that would do the same thing that Medicare now does.

Talk about competition all you want, but no insurance company is going to go out of its way to write policies for people with chronic conditions (heart disease, diabetes, renal failure, arthritis, cancer, and all the other problems that come with age.) And if they did write a policy, there would be so many exclusions that it would be worthless. There is absolutely no way that anyone of Medicare age will be able to get coverage under Ryan's plan. Unless there is something to it that I haven't read about, this is an aspect of "The Plan" that needs to be in the public ring.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on April 12, 2011 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK
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