Paul Ryan Still Doesn’t Get It

Republican House Budget chief Paul Ryan still doesn’t get it. He blames Tuesday’s upset victory of Democrat Kathy Hochul over Republican Jane Corwin to represent New York’s 26th congressional district on Democratic scare tactics.

Hochul had focused like a laser on the Republican plan to turn Medicare into vouchers that would funnel the money to private health insurers. Republicans didn’t exactly take it lying down. The National Republican Congressional Committee poured over $400,000 into the race, and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads provided Corwin an additional $700,000 of support. But the money didn’t work. Even in this traditionally Republican district – represented in the past by such GOP notables as Jack Kemp and William Miller, both of whom would become vice presidential candidates – Hochul’s message hit home.

Ryan calls it “demagoguery,” accusing Hochul and her fellow Democrats of trying to “scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected.”

Scare tactics? Seniors have every right to be scared. His plan would eviscerate Medicare by privatizing it with vouchers that would fall further and further behind the rising cost of health insurance. And Ryan and the Republicans offer no means of slowing rising health-care costs. To the contrary, they want to repeal every cost-containment measure enacted in last year’s health-reform legislation. The inevitable result: More and more seniors would be priced out of the market for health care.

The Ryan plan has put Republicans in a corner. Some, like Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and, briefly, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, are rejecting the plan altogether. Most, though, are holding on and holding their breath. After all, House Republicans approved it — and voters don’t especially like flip-floppers.

Senate Democrats will bring the Ryan plan for a vote Thursday in order to force Republicans on the record.

Some GOP stalwarts say the Party must clarify its message – a sure sign of panic. Former Republican congressman Rick Lazio says the GOP “must do [a] better job explaining entitlements.”

It’s just possible the public knows exactly what entitlements are – and is getting a clear message about what Republicans are up to.

All this should give the White House and Democratic budget negotiators more confidence – and more bargaining leverage – to put tax cuts on the rich squarely on the table.

And, while they’re at it, turn Medicare into a “Medicare-for-all” system that forces doctors and hospitals to shift from costly tests, drugs, and procedures having little effect, to healthy outcomes.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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