Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Radical Gingrich Not Radical Enough

What do you call a congressional effort to abolish one of the two most popular government programs in American history?

On April 20, it was "a good first step," according to Newt Gingrich, who told Time reporter/blogger Jay Newton-Small that "sure," he would have voted for Ryan's plan.

But hold on. Two hours later, The Weekly Standard reports, Gingrich on his Facebook page urged "Congress to move towards a 21st Century personal Medicare system that would allow seniors to choose, on a voluntary basis, a more personal system with greater options for better care."

On May 15 on Meet The Press (transcript here), it was "social engineering," with the Georgian explaining

I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left- wing social engineering . I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.

After all not-heaven broke loose, Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler sent an e-mail to The Weekly Standard arguing "There is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich."

Despite the hysteria among conservatives over Gingrich's heresy, Perry is right: there really is little daylight between the two efforts to destroy Medicare. Clarifying on Sunday his remark, Gingrich further told MTP's David Gregory

I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the -- I don't want to -- I'm against Obamacare , which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.

The funny- no, not funny- thing about this is that Gingrich's framework is an orthodox conservative approach. While eschewing "radical change," he advocates solutions outside the Medicare framework- i.e., allowing individuals to choose a private option. Conveniently for conservatives, that would benefit the healthiest individuals, who might opt out of the program, whereas individuals in worse health would have no such option. (The right always has liked that Social Darwinism.) Eventually, the government "option"- Medicare- would be dominated by the sick and disabled and those clinging to life, relegating the program to a death sentence.

Not surprisingly, Tyler wrote the Weekly Standard

We need to design a better system that people will voluntarily move to. That is a major difference in design but not substance.... Radical means that politically you can't get to what Ryan wants from where we are. It will be demagogued to death. Right wing social engineer refers simply to compelling people to participate without giving them a choice. That is a political mistake.

As someone familiar with the Clinton-era Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party pre-Obama generally, Newt Gingrich figured Democrats would pounce on Ryan's effort to demolish Medicare and use it to demolish the GOP politically. That might be giving the Obamots too much credit. Still, Gingrich was offering the GOP a lifeline. Unfortunately for him, the party that would have sent the moderately conservative Ronald Reagan packing is way beyond that. Destroying a critical portion of the social safety net immediately, critical; destroying it gradually, by bits and pieces, far too reasonable.

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