Political Animal


May 11, 2011 9:10 AM Paul Ryan takes aim at AARP, but misses

By Steve Benen

With the House Republican budget agenda imposing new burdens and hardship on the elderly, it’s not surprising that AARP opposes the GOP vision and has said so. Given that Republicans want to end Medicare and gut Medicaid, the nation’s leading advocates for seniors should be expected to fight back.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), responsible for shaping his caucus’ agenda, appears to be have been rattled by all of this. He lashed out at AARP this week, blasting the organization as “a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry,” which is “intentionally misleading” the public. As Ryan sees it, AARP is in insurers’ back pocket, making it both corrupt and unreliable in the debate.

After Ryan’s political action committee pushed the attack, AARP spokesperson Jim Dau released a statement in response.

“We make decisions on policy based on what we believe will be in the best interests of Americans over age 50. A recent attack on AARP from a political action committee erroneously suggests otherwise. The truth is that the budget plan passed by the House probably would present more opportunities for AARP to strengthen its finances, since every older American would be forced into private Medicare plans, including those that AARP brands.

“But we opposed the legislation nonetheless because we believe the goal should be to strengthen Medicare, not upend it, just as we’ve expressed concern about alternative plans that could use unelected boards to cut Medicare benefits. That has been AARP’s long-stated position, and the well-being of those who need Medicare is the only ‘interest’ we have in this debate.”

That’s a pretty mild way of putting it, but the point is important here. Ryan is arguing that AARP opposes Medicare privatization because the seniors’ group is siding with the insurance industry. But that’s just bizarre on its face — if Medicare became privatized, the insurance industry would stand to make an enormous amount of money from its new customers who would be forced out of a socialized system and into the marketplace.

In other words, if AARP was looking out for insurers instead of seniors, wouldn’t the group endorse the Republican plan?

In the bigger picture, I wonder if Paul Ryan is starting to wilt in the heat. The far-right Wisconsin lawmaker is used to being treated as his party’s Golden Boy — a telegenic media darling who rarely hears a discouraging word. In recent weeks, however, Ryan has been booed by his own constituents; he’s seen polls showing overwhelming opposition to his agenda; and he’s seen his own caucus’ leaders back away from his Medicare plan.

Ryan is starting to seem a little desperate, and he’s not wearing it well.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Bill on May 11, 2011 9:14 AM:

    Paul Ryan doesn't seem quite ready for prime time.

  • Ron Byers on May 11, 2011 9:16 AM:

    I wonder if Ryan thinks anybody outside the beltway media is even listening to him anymore. I love the sound of Rebublican golden boys whining in the morning. It is the sound of victory.

    Thank you Heritage Foundation. Now maybe you can hire some thinkers and tank your welfare kings and queens.

  • DAY on May 11, 2011 9:19 AM:

    Go ahead, Ryan, and "privatize" all of this septuagenarian's "entitlements".

    -And, since you will be breaking a social contract, please send me a check for the FULL AMOUNT I PAID INTO THE SYSYEM!

  • walt on May 11, 2011 9:20 AM:

    The Ryan plan depends on the GOP's time-tested formula of dividing and conquering Americans. But this time, instead of pitting whites against blacks, or straights against gays, or Christians against Muslims, it decided to pit the elderly against everyone else. That is, it exempted the elderly from the harshest of its Randian plans. But lo and behold, it's the elderly who look like the ones to call bullshit on this sociopathic fiesta. Maybe they're understandably nervous that their GOP guardians may throw them to the wolves like everyone else. Or maybe it's because they finally understand something most Americans no longer do: we're all in this together.

  • c u n d gulag on May 11, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Well, when you hang out in the House with Bachmann, Pence, Goemert, the Kings, and other bitheringly imbecilic morons, you look like the bright guy in the room if you keep quite, or ratchet down your own crazy tendecies once in a while, like Ryan.

    It's when you think it's 'your time' and you leave the comfortable environs of Casa Crazy and take your show on the road and people compare you to real people, real bright people, not your prattling political patrons and fellow right-wing politicians, that people see that you're a poor excuse for a human being, let alone being some shining intellectual light.

    Yeah, Ryan, picking on AARP was a move a bright politician would make. Especially a Conservative one.

  • berttheclock on May 11, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Surprised you didn't include the comment by former Senator Alan Simpson about AARP being "38 million people looking for air line discounts", then, shaking his fist at AARP.

    This from a son of a US Senator from a small state, who, lived on the public dole for years (18 as a US Senator) and who is still involved with a lucrative family law practice in that small state representing the very well off. In addition, when speaking about the creation of Social Security, he said it had been developed as welfare to aid "ditch diggers and the like".

  • Bo on May 11, 2011 9:25 AM:

    The GOoPers have painted themselves into a corner.

    First of all, they all voted for the Boy Math-whiz's "Pathway to Prosperity", its faulty numbers and its mistaken policies. Then, they went home and got scorched in front of townhall meetings.

    Now that they have backed away from "reforming" Medicare, Ryan's poorly constructed house of cards totally collapses. His "Pathway" is no longer even a phony deficit reduction plan . . . it's a "Prescription for Pauperhood".

  • Obee on May 11, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Do you really think that insurance companies can't wait to get into the business of insuring old and sick people?

    Maybe the companies could offer such policies, but can you imagine what they'd have to charge to make any money?

  • martin on May 11, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Out of the echo chamber and into the fire.

  • June on May 11, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Last year during his visit to the Republican retreat, Obama very precisely laid out to Paul Ryan why his plan was a bunch of busywork that could not work in the real world. Glad to see the world at large agrees.

  • Ron Byers on May 11, 2011 9:50 AM:

    Obee, I am sure Ryan realizes that the companies trying to insure the elderly under his plan will lose money on every policy, but he has been told the large volume will create a market.

  • John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 11, 2011 9:51 AM:

    Fuck you Ryan.
    I had avoided joining AARP for many years, but thanks to you they just got a new member.
    Any enemy of you is a friend of mine.
    Ryan , you need to turn off Faux Nooze and discover that there is a real world out there with seniors that vote for their own interests , which the is imperceptible inside the beltway universe

  • mikefromArlington on May 11, 2011 9:51 AM:

    "Ryan is starting to seem a little desperate, and he�s not wearing it well."

    That hissing sound is all the air seeping from the Ryan/Boner budget.

  • Texas Aggie on May 11, 2011 9:55 AM:

    AARP came down against the ACA reform because it would interfere with their insurance business. I had an extended email conversation with one of their representatives about this, and she just kept dancing around the issue and talking about how everyone should be allowed to keep their insurance if they liked it, as if that were something the ACA threatened.

    Now the AARP seems to have gotten the word from their constituents or else there was a change in their administration. And actually Ryan's plan, which on one hand has been dropped by the republicans but then on the other hand, reinstated in their ransom for raising the deficit, isn't going to help the insurance companies. As Obee points out, there is no way in God's good earth that the insurance companies are going to sign up the elderly. It would be a loser from the word go. And once the republicans eliminate ACA as they've promised to do, then there will be no requirement that insurance companies accept the elderly. So the republicans are screwing over the elderly now and as far into the future as you can see.

  • blondie on May 11, 2011 9:56 AM:

    Ryan's fee-fees are hurt? Couldn't happen to a nicer ...

  • Bob M on May 11, 2011 9:58 AM:

    "Left-leaning"! What a creep!

  • Steve P on May 11, 2011 9:59 AM:

    It's a systemic problem, I'm afraid. When the party keeps seeking out rich pretty people who look good on TV and billboards, but whose lives within the cloister of the GOP echo chamber ill-prepare them for the rough and tumble of actual debate . . . Ron Paul's probably burrowing in behind his staff.
    There's just so many things that money can't buy.

  • stormskies on May 11, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Meanwhile the Beltway Corporate Media is huddling in private in order to figure out another way to 'package' Ann Rand = Paul Ryan so as to try to sell him yet again ... David 'swollen lips' Gregory is leading the way .. wait for it ... it's what General Electric hired this corporate cum slut to do ....

  • neil b on May 11, 2011 10:03 AM:

    Yeah, Ryan and Boner both falling apart. As for Boehner, another good rundown on his dishonest budget talk:
    Boehner's Views on Economy Contradicted by Indicators, Studies.

  • OKDem on May 11, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Re: Martin @9:44AM

    Indeed. We have Medicare because the insurance companies realized that taking seniors out of the pool improved their margins on the rest of the population.

    Ryan did provide a mechanism for transfer of middle class tax money to large insurance companies. Unlike ACA, Ryancare allows disapproval of benefits due to preexisting conditions.

    Being old is a preexisting condition. "Thank you for the premiums, please do not die on the premises."

  • jim filyaw on May 11, 2011 10:14 AM:

    ryan has never bothered me. i thought all along he was a third rate thinker who never quite overcame being exposed to ayn rand in his adolescence. any ideas he might cobble together would collapse under serious inspection.

    but what bothers the hell out of me is the m.s.m.'s gullability with regard to ryan. where are the tough minds and hard bitten realists who we depend on to provide that kind of inspection? i realize that even basic economics is a tough slog, but gee, guys, you don't have to parrot g.o.p. press handouts as if they were holy writ.

  • burro on May 11, 2011 10:34 AM:

    OKDem @ 10:05 AM:

    "...Ryancare allows disapproval of benefits due to preexisting conditions."

    I hadn't seen "Ryancare" yet. Don't know why as it's a natural albatross to hang around his neck and the whole stinking r party. It should be adopted now, with all of it's smelly and very significant baggage.

  • jjm on May 11, 2011 10:41 AM:

    I too am greatly bothered by the msm push to create a 'star' of this hack.

    But really, he and the others in the GOP are so immersed in that 'reality' of their own creation they are unable to see themselves as others do.

    Which means they cannot survive in a democracy.

    Their only solution would be to foster a movement of mass delusion (aka fascism) that does not depend on democracy.

    But Americans, so far, seem very allergic to this kind of movement, as WI, MI, Ohio and other places are showing.

    And I'm glad for that. Otherwise living in collective delusion, in a country as powerful militarily as this is, would not only be bad news for us but for the whole world.

  • Bill on May 11, 2011 10:53 AM:

    "June on May 11, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Last year during his visit to the Republican retreat, Obama very precisely laid out to Paul Ryan why his plan was a bunch of busywork that could not work in the real world. Glad to see the world at large agrees."

    June, IMO, you are spot on. The video of Obama schooling the Rs at that retreat is a keeper.

  • June on May 11, 2011 11:11 AM:

    @Bill - thanks for the link!

  • AK Liberal on May 11, 2011 12:21 PM:

    Immediately after Ryan's budget passed the House, I joined AARP in support of their advocacy. If you're fifty or older it can't hurt and it's cheap to join, about $15 per year.

  • Marko on May 11, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Well, now we know why Social Security and Medicare are considered the THIRD RAIL of politics in this country. You touch it and you get FRIED! Nice try, GOP - is that all you got? heh

  • Cha on May 11, 2011 3:59 PM:

    I read Ayn Rand got on Goverment Insurance toward the end when she had lung cancer and couldn't afford to pay for it.


    Paul Ryan is a lying hypocrite but this is what we have to deal with in the republicon teabagger party.

    Please get rid of captcha, Steve Benen.

  • Doug on May 11, 2011 9:12 PM:

    What Ryan, as with almost all Republican/Teabagger types, can't understand is why AARP wouldn't clap it's (metaphorical) hands in glee at the prospect of selling more insurance so, of course they have to be a "left-leaning, pressure group". He completely misses the fact that AARP WOULDN'T sell more insurance policies, because insurance companies wouldn't offer HCI on the elderly - there's no money in it. That's why Medicare was enacted.
    It's just like children playing "dress-up" and pretending to be "all grown up". Poor things, they don't know all the bother, compromising, and effort that's part and parcel of being a "grown up".
    For that matter, neither do Republican/Teabaggers...