Make Paul Ryan Own His Budget … And Its Consequences

Terrance Heath

Robert Reich has some excellent advice for Vice President Joe Biden, regarding his debate we VP wannabe Rep. Paul Ryan: Don’t debate the earnest, affable Paul Ryan who’s likely to show up tonight. Debate the right-wing Randian behind those blue eyes. Tell Americans just what that Paul Ryan wants to inflict on their families and communities — and that he’s put it in writing. No matter how much he feints, dodges or even tries to deny it, make him own it. 

Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan won’t be able to pull a Romney — pretending he’s a moderate — because the Ryan budget is out there, with specific numbers.

It’s an astounding document that Romney fully supports. And it fills in the details Romney has left out of his proposals. Mitt Romney is a robot who will say and do whatever he’s programmed to do. Ryan is the robot’s brain. The robot has no heart. It’s your job to enable America to see this.

No pair of issues throw as much light on the cold, dark, heart of the of the GOP agenda — the budget crafted by Ryan, endorsed by Republicans, and embraced by Mitt Romney — as Medicare and Medicaid. 

Reich suggests that Biden even hold up a copy of the Ryan Budget, and read selected passages. Far be it from me to craft “zingers” for Joe Biden, but while he’s thumbing through the Ryan Budget, perhaps he should say something like this: “There is a program in here called Medicaid. You did let it keep the name. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing about it that’s recognizable.”

Emphasize these points: Ryan’s budget turns Medicare into vouchers. It includes the same $716 billion of savings Romney last week accused the President of cutting out of Medicare – but instead of getting it from providers he gets it from the elderly.

 I’m not sure how much time the veep will get, but it might help if he could throw in a few factoids. 

Biden would also do well to heed Reich’s advice on Medicaid.

It turns Medicaid over to cash-starved states, with even less federal contribution. This will hurt the poor as well as middle-class elderly in nursing homes.

So, I’d add this much to Reich’s advice: Remind Americans that the GOP still wants to gut Medicaid.

 Sometimes there no joy in being right. Sometimes it’s just no fun to say “I told ya so.” This is one of those times.

Depending on whom you ask, Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate is either inspired or insane; bold or boneheaded; a opportunity for meaningful debate or a triumph of theory. But without a doubt, Romney’s pick or Ryan as his running mate has revived the Ryan’s seminal budget document, The Path to Prosperity, which would end Medicare as we know it back in the spotlight. (It’s OK, really. There would still be a program called “Medicare,” but the resemblance would end there.) This is already turning in to bad news for the campaign, as Romney can’t win without Florida, and it seems neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan can show their faces down there right now.

But a few people have noticed something I pointed out at length about a year ago. He may want to give Medicare a witness-protection-style makeover, but Paul Ryan still wants to gut Medicaid. Apparently, so does Mitt Romney.

Though we’ll all hear more about the GOP’s dastardly plans for Medicare, we’ll probably hear less about their equally destructive plans for Medicaid. That’s dangerous, because Medicaid is just as important as Medicare, and the GOP’s plans for it could have devastating consequences for millions of Americans.

Forewarned is forearmed. Here’s what you need to know about Medicaid and the Ryan/GOP Budget.

  1. Medicaid is not the problem. It’s part of a larger health care cost problem.
  2. Medicaid is not “just a program for poor people.” It’s also important to most middle- and working-class Americans.
  3. The Republican cuts to Medicaid don’t lower health care costs. They shift costs to poor, elderly, middle- and working-class Americans.
  4. The Republican cuts to Medicaid are just as unpopular as the Republican cuts to Medicare. Democrats compromise with Republicans on Medicaid cuts at their peril.

In past few days Ed Kilgore, Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, and WaPo’s Suzy Khim have been among those to point out the not-so-obvious: Paul Ryan’s plan to gut Medicaid, chop it into little pieces, and bury bits of the remains in each state. His plans for Medicare — embraced by the GOP, and endorsed by Mitt Romney — look mild by comparison; like the difference between a manicure and an amputation.

This is important, because Americans reject the Republican agenda when they hear what’s in it.

Even among groups that have been strong on the deficit all year, this budget opens with only moderate support. Just over half (53 percent) of white non-college voters initially favor this plan. The numbers are similarly modest for white seniors (51 percent) and in the rural non-South areas (50 percent). There is stronger initial support among white men (58 percent favor the plan at the outset) but this support erodes as soon the plan is described. When the budget is described — using as much of Paul Ryan’s description as possible (see text box below)— support collapses to 36 percent, with just 19 percent strongly supporting the plan. The facts in the budget lose people almost immediately – dropping 12 points. Putting the spotlight on this budget is damning. A large majority of 56 percent oppose it, 42 percent strongly. The impact is much stronger with seniors where support erodes from 48 percent to just 32 per-cent, with 57 percent opposed. Support with independents drops from 55 percent to 43 percent.

The plan cuts 6.2 trillion dollars below the president’s budget and reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy. It makes small cuts in defense spending. It cuts spending for domestic programs in the coming year by 72 billion dollars, almost 20 percent, and freezes it for five years. It repeals the new health care bill and the new Wall Street reform law, makes major cuts of almost 800 billion dollars to Medicaid and Medicare for seniors over the next ten years. Starting in 2022, new retirees will no longer get health coverage through Medicare, but instead will get a voucher that will partially pay for insurance they purchase from private health insurance companies. The proposal cuts taxes for corporations and people making over 370 thousand dollars a year.

The information and debate on the Republican budget brings new Democratic base voters to life. At the end of the survey, almost 60 percent of young voters and two-thirds of unmarried women and African American and Hispanic voters oppose the plan. Getting these voters back and energized should be a top priority for Democrats heading into the election season. In challenging the budget, Democrats are creating the kind of intensity that made such a difference in the last na-tional elections.

 Goodness knows, a bit of intensity would be a big help right about now.

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