Friday, April 06, 2012







Dream Ticket, For Democrats

In a puff piece so sweet it would rot a whole set of teeth, The Washington Post's Philip Rucker described the marvelous time Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan had hanging out together, sharing a little man-love.    He wrote

On the campaign trail here, Romney has alternately called Ryan “a great leader,” “a wonderful speaker” and “a great man.” After Ryan endorsed him Friday in Appleton, Romney said: “This is a guy who’s willing to stand for something. He didn’t just go to Washington to be seen and to have a little job there. He went to Washington to make a difference"...

Later that day, it was Romney making the jokes. “This guy here, this is not my son,” he told one crowd in Middleton, poking fun of Ryan’s relative youth. Addressing another audience, he joked that Ryan was only 10 years old when Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980.


“I did have a Reagan bumper sticker on my locker in the third grade,” Ryan offered.


“This guy was born conservative!” Romney quipped.


Paul Ryan is now the newest hot name being promoted as former Governor Romney's running-mate.      If only Romney were that stupid, we all could breathe a little easier, confident that Barack Obama, by far the lesser of two evils, will be re-elected in November.

Fortunately for Democrats, that Paul Ryan.      As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan recently released a budget, which then was approved by the GOP-dominated House, which would harm the middle class, eviscerate programs for the poor, and leave defense spending untouched.    It would allow the deficit to rise less quickly than would President Obama's plan, only because it includes elimination of various tax deductions.     Those deductions are conspicuously unspecified, so if you're a middle-class homeowner, hold on to your wallet.    He's coming for it.

If Ryan were to join the ticket, he could dance and dodge through a lot of his phony budget.   Medicare, however, would be- to quote Jim DeMint in a slightly different context- his Waterloo.    As described by the Center for American Progress

The House budget would provide vouchers to Medicare beneficiaries to purchase either a private health insurance plan or the traditional Medicare plan. This plan would shift costs to seniors, making many seniors pay sharply higher premiums to stay in traditional Medicare and keep their current choice of doctors. For these seniors the choice of traditional Medicare would be a false one in reality.

This premium support plan would also limit growth in Medicare spending to growth in the economy plus 0.5 percentage points. But since it’s unclear how this cap would be enforced, it’s likely that the cap would limit the amount of the vouchers provided to beneficiaries. Since the proposed growth rate is much slower than the projected growth in health care costs, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that new beneficiaries could pay more than $1,200 more by 2030 and more than $5,900 more by 2050.


What’s more, private plans could “cherry pick” healthier seniors, driving up premiums for those who remain in traditional Medicare. And private plans would be able to undercut traditional Medicare in other ways, such as by offering free gym memberships or other perks. As a result more and more seniors would gradually shift to private plans over time. This gradual privatization of Medicare does not make sense because traditional Medicare costs less than comparable private coverage. But with fewer beneficiaries Medicare would have less leverage to contain the growth in health care costs.


The House budget would also shift costs to seniors by raising Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67. Some seniors who would no longer be eligible for Medicare would pick up employer coverage—but they would pay more in premiums and cost sharing. And since the budget would scale back or eliminate other coverage options, hundreds of thousands of seniors would become uninsured.


With age, Ryan has gotten a little more flexible.     Unlike in his previous plan, he now would allow Medicare spending to grow at .5% greater than the growth in the economy.    Moreover, instead of completely replacing Medicare with vouchers, he now would allow elderly to choose to remain in the Medicare program.     But as CAP explains, the projected, and likely, result is the same.       The healthier elderly individuals would select a private plan, a result which would be accentuated by various offers made to entice the healthier persons.

Those incentives probably, at the outset, would be almost irresistible.     It would not be unlike the arrival of Wal-Mart to an area.     Prices start out almost ridiculously low, service is great, and the store is kept clean.     As smaller merchants are driven out of business, the store's standards, whether in terms of prices, service, and/or ambiance, decline markedly because the competition has been eliminated.

So, too, is the GOP objective the elimination of Medicare.     Given the Republicans' overall strategy, you can hardly blame them: it is a government program that works, and we can't have that.     Messes up the whole narrative.

A national campaign by a Romney-Ryan ticket would dramatically draw attention to the Repub strategy.     President Obama already has begun the attack, labeling the GOP budget a Trojan horse," one “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.”      Republicans can trot out their worn attack on Democrats for "class warfare";  but, if they're ready to drive a stake through Medicare, the strategy will only backfire.

Mitt Romney has only one road to victory- framing the election as a referendum rather than a choice.    Nothing will turn the campaign into one of choice, rather than referendum, faster than aiming a figurative sword directly at the older generation, unavoidable if Ryan is on the ticket.

President Obama, and Democrats generally in the Age of Obama, have faced serious obstacles gaining support from elderly voters.     Selection of Paul Ryan to run with a candidate who, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, himself pays a lower tax rate than the janitor at the grandchildren's school would obliterate those obstacles.    Go Mitt, go.




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