Political Animal


August 30, 2012 11:43 AM The Two Paul Ryans

By Ed Kilgore

To hear the conservative chatter this morning, all the complaints about Paul Ryan’s various lies and prevarications last night are, of course, just partisan sour grapes. America loves the precious little bugger, we’re told, and he’s right to spank Obama for trying to steal his mom’s Medicare benefits in order to help those people.

But from the libertarian world, there’s a lonely dissent at Reason.com’s blog, penned by Peter Suderman:

The GOP has now made its intentions clear: Defend Medicare at all costs, now and forever. And in doing so, it’s weakened one of the party’s most promising policy reformers.
Even though the party’s latest platform acknowledges that Medicare is the largest single driver of the debt, and even as the party has inched toward making reform of the seniors health program a priority, it has also declared its intention to protect and defend the program at all costs. The GOP would have us believe that Medicare is both the biggest problem and the biggest success in American government, wrecking our public finances but also in need of saving from the current administration’s cuts.
On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has declared that it was wrong for Obama to cut Medicare, and promised never to cut the program himself. Now Rep. Paul Ryan, the chief GOP proponent of Medicare reform in Congress and Romney’s running mate, has thoroughly bought into this argument. Ryan’s GOP convention speech tonight went all in on the defense of Medicare. “Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it,” he said. And the reason to repeal ObamaCare is because of the way it upends the existing entitlement structure. “The greatest threat to Medicare,” according to Rep. Ryan,” is ObamaCare, and we’re going to stop it….”
What we’re seeing is the war between two Paul Ryans. He has always been a conservative policy reformer as well as a good party soldier. But when the two have come into conflict, the party soldier has almost always won. That’s made him an effective politician, and helped him carry his policy case into the spotlight. But ultimately it will probably make him far less successful as a policy entreprenuer.

Cheer up, Peter. If Romney and Ryan win, and particularly if Republicans gain control of Congress, the campaign’s promises to protect Medicare from the mean old black man won’t matter at all. Indeed, Ryan has long pretended that eliminating Medicare’s most distinctive features as a defined-benefit “entitlement” is his idea of “protecting” it. And this is a guy who has no problem claiming—and for all I know, believing—that he’s got the best interests of the poor in mind when he seeks to liberate them from dependence on food stamps, Medicaid, the EITC, etc., so that they can become vigorous upwardly mobile chaps like he was.

I’m guessing Ryan’s mom isn’t going to be relying on Medicaid to cover any nursing home expenses she might encounter, so all she’ll have to worry about is her son’s determination to re-open the Part D “donut hole” and perhaps some new deductibles she’ll face if ObamaCare is repealed. But more generally, this isn’t a White House team that puts a whole lot of stock in honesty or consistency, so “reformers” can relax. Romney’s and Ryan’s Medicare promises are written in the kind of disappearing ink that hack magicians use. Now you see it; now you don’t.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Bokonon on August 30, 2012 12:12 PM:

    I think Reason is concerned that the nuances of Ryan's doublespeak will be lost ... once implementation time comes around on Ryan's bold plans to destroy the Medicaid and Medicare village to "strengthen" it. All those low income voters and seniors who have been grooving to the GOP's claims that Obama is taking away their benefits are going to sit up and say "WAIT" when the cuts finally come. No more fuzzy thinking then. The "Obama sux!" evasions and fantasies won't work then. And then there will be a backlash.

    So - it is a question of long term goals. And I think Reason is just worried about being painted into a corner by the campaign lies that are expedient today.

  • c u n d gulag on August 30, 2012 12:12 PM:

    "And this is a guy who has no problem claiming—and for all I know, believing—that he’s got the best interests of the poor in mind when he seeks to liberate them from dependence on food stamps, Medicaid, the EITC,etc..."

    Yes, he believes that people will be too hungry and sick to have the energy to ask the government for any help.

    Maybe their parents or grandparents can help them?

    And if they can't, then they all should have planned better, the whold feckin' mooching lot of 'em!

  • sjw on August 30, 2012 12:13 PM:

    EVERYTHING Romney-Ryan say is a lie. I could even imagine that Romney will not follow through on some of his lies to the right. This is the most opaque, Orwellian campaign in history. "But we ought to trust Mitt!" we're told. Oh sure ... God help us if he prevails.

  • Dredd on August 30, 2012 12:16 PM:

    The 2012 Republican platform states:

    "The environment is getting cleaner and healthier. The nation’s air and waterways, as a whole, are much healthier than they were just a few decades ago. Efforts to reduce pollution, encourage recycling, educate the public, and avoid ecological degradation have been a success."

    (The Right Is Wrong - 3). Anyone know what planet they are talking about?

  • c u n d gulag on August 30, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Btw - the Democrats need to ask if they can get The Eagles permission to use their great song, and just change the lyrics a bit, to match the new title:
    "Your Ryan Eyes."

    'You can't hide your Ryan eyes
    And your smile is a thin disguise
    I thought by, people would realize
    That there ain't nothing there
    Except your lyin Ryan eyes...'

  • T2 on August 30, 2012 12:30 PM:

    it's all very simple. The Conservatives want your paycheck to contain zero deductions...no income tax, no Social Security tax, no Medicare payment, nada. You take home all your pay and spend it to buy stuff, including medical insurance and put it in the Stock Market so you'll have some money to live on in your old age (might as well gamble it in Vegas). So all you earn eventually goes into the pockets of the 1%.
    You'll ride on crappy highways, fly in dangerous planes, eat food that is subject to no inspections, build your own levees, pay to rebuild your city if a tornado hits, breath unhealthy air, home-school your kids and only teach from the Bible, and live in squalor if you are old and sick.
    Paul Ryan is the spearhead, the Figurehead, for that way of life and the Conservative GOP is the mechanism to achieve it. Vote for them at your personal risk.

  • TCinLA on August 30, 2012 12:51 PM:

    "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives."
    -- John Stuart Mill

  • Gummo on August 30, 2012 12:58 PM:

    Any "analysis" that contains this shopworn lie:

    Even though the party’s latest platform acknowledges that Medicare is the largest single driver of the debt,

    isn't worth the pixels it's displayed with.

    What about the wars? What about the Bush tax cuts? What about facts and cold hard numbers?

  • Rip on August 30, 2012 2:42 PM:

    Conservatives wanted this morning to be about how Paul Ryan's speech connected with ordinary Americans, not defending him from charges that his speech was full of lies.

    Persuadable and undecided voters aren't watching the conventions in any real number. They are not going to watch Ryan's speech in it's entirety if at all. At most they are going to be seeing soundbites. If you google "Ryan Speech" the links are all concerning the falsehoods and inaccuracies or about Republicans defending the speech.

    This can't make the Romney campaign happy.

  • biggerbox on August 30, 2012 3:47 PM:

    Ryan does want to protect Medicare. If by "Medicare" you mean "a new system of subsidizing private insurers by forcing seniors to buy unregulated policies from them and giving the seniors a small payment to pretend to support them in doing so."

    Isn't that what YOU meant by Medicare? Oh, no?

    How about that?

  • Doug on August 30, 2012 6:04 PM:

    Isn't that sweet! A "conservative" who says he believes the Romney/Ryan lies about Medicare! As opposed to what Romney and Ryan have actually said they will do.
    Didn't "Reason" get the memo?

  • MaryinChicago on August 31, 2012 4:51 AM:

    Why do I get the feeling we've all been cast in an offline version of "Survivor" -- and the GOP's Spoiled Fratboy ticket and their funders (the Koch brothers, Adelson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth, etc., etc.) have formed an alliance to vote the rest of us off the island?

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