Saturday, May 28, 2011

Do You Think Professor Krugman Would Give Paul Ryan An F?

Paul Krugman hasn't been a fan of Paul Ryan's breezy pseudo-intellectual laziness for just about a full year now. Last August he warned Beltway insiders that the Wall Street Frankenstein creature from Wisconsin was nothing but a flimflam man and his much-heralded "courageousness" was, in reality, merely "the audacity of dopes." Thursday, in light of Ryan telling reporters he doesn't care if he loses his own House seat next year, Krugman poked through the Republican wreckage in western New York state and found what happens when someone who doesn't know much about economics tries to put one over on the public. He found why Ryan is "upset" and "bitter" and added "sore loser" to the growing lexicon that describes the Republican Budget Chair, reminding us that Hochul's campaign had "focused squarely on Mr. Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare and replace it with a voucher system." Ryan blamed his stunning loss on "Democrats’ willingness to 'shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue, trying to scare seniors to win an election,' and he predicted that by November of next year 'the American people are going to know they’ve been lied to'.”
You can understand Mr. Ryan’s bitterness. He has, after all, experienced quite a comedown over the course of the past seven weeks. Until his Medicare plan was rolled out in early April he had spent months bathing in warm approbation from many pundits, who had decided to anoint him as an icon of fiscal responsibility. And the plan itself received rapturous praise in the first couple of days after its release.

Then people who actually know how to read a budget proposal started looking at the plan. And that’s when everything started to fall apart.

Mr. Ryan may claim-- and he may even believe-- that he’s facing a backlash because his opponents are lying about his proposals. But the reality is that the Ryan plan is turning into a political disaster for Republicans, not because the plan’s critics are lying about it, but because they’re describing it accurately.

Take, for example, the statement that the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. This may have Republicans screaming “Mediscare!” but it’s the absolute truth: The plan would replace our current system, in which the government pays major health costs, with a voucher system, in which seniors would, in effect, be handed a coupon and told to go find private coverage.

The new program might still be called Medicare-- hey, we could replace government coverage of major expenses with an allowance of two free aspirins a day, and still call it “Medicare”-- but it wouldn’t be the same program. And if the cost estimates of the Congressional Budget Office are at all right, the inadequate size of the vouchers-- which by 2030 would cover only about a third of seniors’ health costs-- would leave many if not most older Americans unable to afford essential care.

If anyone is lying here, it’s Mr. Ryan himself, who has claimed that his plan would give seniors the same kind of coverage that members of Congress receive-- an assertion that is completely false.

And, by the way, the claim that the plan would keep Medicare as we know it intact for Americans currently 55 or older is highly dubious. True, that’s what the plan promises, but if you think about the political dynamics that would emerge once Americans born a year or two too late realize how much better a deal slightly older Americans are getting, you realize that this is a promise unlikely to be fulfilled.

Still, are Democrats doing a bad thing by telling the truth about the Ryan plan? “If you demagogue entitlement reform,” says Mr. Ryan, “you’re hastening a debt crisis; you’re bringing about Medicare’s collapse.” Maybe he should have a word with his colleagues who greeted the modest, realistic cost control efforts in the Affordable Care Act with cries of “death panels.”

Anyway, the underlying premise behind statements like that is the assumption that the Ryan plan represents a serious effort to come to grip with America’s long-run fiscal problems. But what became clear soon after that plan was unveiled was that it was no such thing. In fact, it wasn’t really a deficit-reduction plan. Once you remove the absurd assumptions-- discretionary spending, including defense, falling to Calvin Coolidge levels, and huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, with no loss in revenue?-- it’s highly questionable whether it would reduce the deficit at all.

What the Ryan plan is, instead, is an attempt to snooker Americans into accepting a standard right-wing wish list under the guise of deficit reduction. And Americans, it seems, have seen through the deception.

So what happens now? The fight will shift from Medicare to Medicaid-- a program that has become an essential lifeline for many Americans, especially children, but which in the Ryan plan is slated for a 44 percent cut in federal aid over the next decade. At this point, however, I’m optimistic that this initiative will also run aground on popular disapproval.

What of Mr. Ryan’s hope that voters will realize that they’ve been lied to? Well, as I see it, that’s already happening. And it’s bad news for the G.O.P.

I wonder if anyone thinks it's just a coincidence that young Ryan has taken more money from Wall Street and Big Insurance interests than any other politician in the history of Wisconsin. Wall Street selected him long ago as someone to back and push all the way up the ladder. The audacity of dopes is exactly what they were looking for and, so far, the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector has showered Ryan's political career with legalist bribes to the tune of $2,349,822, the kind of money usually reserved for senators. Insurance companies chipped in $713,003 and the Medical Industrial Complex put forward another $1,063,242. Big Business is financing Ryan's career because he will always pick their interests over the interests of his constituents who he doesn't care about one whit. When he says he doesn't care if he loses his seat or not, he means it. He's convinced his friends in the plutocracy will take good care of him. Hopefully, we'll see if that's true or not.

Please consider helping Rob Zerban get his message out to southeast Wisconsin voters this cycle so they can do the country a favor and defeat Ryan not just in NY-26 but in WI-1, where it will count the most. (Although, I have to admit, I love to see other progressive candidates around the country campaign on an anti-Ryan platform.)

This week Washington Post editorial writer Dana Milbank jumped into the fray as well with Paul Ryan gets a taste of his own shameless demagoguery, an opinion few Inside the Beltway were willing to consider when the full court press of the corporate propaganda machine was churning out hourly praise for Ryan's brilliance and courageousness last month. The conservative voters in the suburbs and small towns between Buffalo and Rochester defeated that meme. But what Milbank focuses on is that though a petulant Paul Ryan is bitterly complaining that Democrats are being mean to him, it was Ryan himself who was one of the GOP kings of "shameless demagoguery and scare tactics" for the last two years.
Speaking on the House floor in 2009, he said the Democrats’ health-care legislation would “take coverage away from seniors,” “raise premiums for families” and “cost us nearly 5.5 million jobs.” Later, he said the health plan would bring about government “rationing” of health care.

He also labeled the plan “a government takeover of our healthcare system,” claimed America was at a “tipping point” toward a “European social welfare state,” and gave a wink to the “death panel” allegations. His suggestion that the legislation would result in the IRS getting “16,000 agents” to police the health-care law was knocked down as “wildly inaccurate” by

...Ryan might be worthy of more sympathy if he hadn’t been one of the people clubbing Democrats with slogans about trampled liberty as they labored to explain exchanges and cost curves. Now Ryan is the one trying to define the narrow difference between “premium support” and “vouchers” while Democrats accuse him of forcing seniors into destitution.

As Central Florida Democratic congressional candidate Nick Ruiz asked yesterday, "Why is America being forced to play Ryan Roulette? Where each vote for such a misguided plan as Paul Ryan’s (WI-1), that can only be seen as the Republicans’ siren song-- the medieval Path to ‘Austerity’-- is like a blow to the head of America."

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