The GOP is the Party of Medicare

The GOP has now made its intentions clear: Defend Medicare at all costs, now and forever. And in doing so, it's weakened one of the party's most promising policy reformers.

Even though the party's latest platform acknowledges that Medicare is the largest single driver of the debt, and even as the party has inched toward making reform of the seniors health program a priority, it has also declared its intention to protect and defend the program at all costs. The GOP would have us believe that Medicare is both the biggest problem and the biggest success in American government, wrecking our public finances but also in need of saving from the current administration's cuts. 

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has declared that it was wrong for Obama to cut Medicare, and promised never to cut the program himself. Now Rep. Paul Ryan, the chief GOP proponent of Medicare reform in Congress and Romney's running mate, has thoroughly bought into this argument. Ryan's GOP convention speech tonight went all in on the defense of Medicare. "Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it," he said. And the reason to repeal ObamaCare is because of the way it upends the existing entitlement structure. "The greatest threat to Medicare," according to Rep. Ryan," is ObamaCare, and we’re going to stop it." 

This was a popular argument amongst a lot of Republicans while ObamaCare was being debated and in the months leading up to the 2010 mid-term election. But Rep. Ryan did not embrace it like some of his colleagues. I'd like to think that's because he saw it as self-defeating: A fiscally burdensome program that needs reform does not also need to be protected from cuts. Indeed, Ryan included essentially the same cuts in his own budget plan. 

But now Ryan is leading the attack on those cuts from his perch as the party's VP nominee.

What we're seeing is the war between two Paul Ryans. He has always been a conservative policy reformer as well as a good party soldier. But when the two have come into conflict, the party soldier has almost always won. That's made him an effective politician, and helped him carry his policy case into the spotlight. But ultimately it will probably make him far less successful as a policy entreprenuer.

He made his name as an energetic Medicare reformer, someone who believed the program wasn't working, was too expensive, and needed to be changed. But tonight, in the most prominent speech of his career, he chose to defend the idea that the program was not only worth preserving but worth defending from any and all of the other party's cuts. That may or may not be good for his political career, but it's hard to see how it will be good for his policy reforms. He's helped join his party to the cause of mindlessly protecting the program he says he wants to reform. 

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  • ||

    It's this kind of capitulation that keeps me from ever even considering the possibility that Ryan might one day be a serious player in budget reform.

    Now the only decision I have is whether to vote for Johnson or write-in Paul.

  • califernian||

    Reality has a way of not caring what politicians say to soft-headed voters.

  • Tman||

    The GOP has now made its intentions clear: Defend Medicare at all costs, now and forever.

    You and I anyone else on this board who pays federal taxes have spent and are currently spending 3% of our paychecks paying for Medicare so I fucking hope someone is defending "it", whatever that might be.

    And in doing so, it's weakened one of the party's most promising policy reformers.

    It does weaken the party when you take away core conservative principles, which are way more in line with libertarian principles than anything from the progressive angle.

    But COME ON. THEY ARE BOTH THE PARTY OF MEDICARE.

    Why be so cute about it?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Why not use defending Medicare as an excuse to cut everything else?

    Honestly, the sudden elimination of Medicare was never going to happen anyway.
    But it is possible to repeal Obamacare to save Medicare.

    End the drug wars to save Medicare.

    Roll back the regulatory state to save Medicare.

    Bring the troops home (and end the empire) to save Medicare.

  • Johnimo||

    Let's hope that's their plan, 'cause I'm going to vote for them so that Obama doesn't nominate more lefty Supremes.

  • ||

    Romeny is going to win no matter how you vote.

    Vote for Johnson.

  • Johnimo||

    I suppose we could hope they would "save" Medicare for current recipients and privatize it, under the same nomenclature, for younger workers. However, they're being very disingenuous, and anti both conservative and libertarian principles, not to be speaking of the benefits and necessity of privatizing healthcare somewhere down the road. It's the nanny state that's got Europe in an economic funk and SOMEONE had better begin to explain the alternatives to the American electorate.

  • ||

    Sorry, but no one who does not promise to "save Medicare" is going to lose this election. There are too of the many of the "Greatest Generation" (the most left-wing generation in all US history), depression era and wartime babies left sucking on this teat and scared shitless thy're going to get cut off (due mostly to Donkey demagoguery, in spite of the fact that no one has ever proposed a Medicare "reform plan" in the last thirty years that would end payouts to current beneficiaries). And they're the bastards that show up to vote.

    Now the boomers are coming on line to collect and they've been told they're entitled and they have been the ones paying the high FICA taxes for twenty-some years and there's no way that after all that they're going to accept a reduction in their benefits.

  • califernian||

    they have been the ones paying the high FICA taxes for twenty-some years and there's no way that after all that they're going to accept a reduction in their benefits

    Reality will win out. If you promise me the moon, I shouldn't be too surprised when you deliver something less.

  • ||

    Well, the "Greatest Generation" are used to having their way; they kicked Hitler's and Tojo" asses didn't they?

    OTOH, boomers are used to being fucked, a pointless war, and then a life where they didn't get anywhere near the kind of government swag their "Greatest Generation" parents got.

    If anyone will roll over on SS/Medicare changes, it's the boomers.

  • Ryan60657||

    The "Greatest" Generation should be renamed the "Greediest" Generation.

  • ||

    You forgot to mention that the "cuts" in medicare go to Obamacare.

    Also that Americans pay way more for health care then either free market health care systems or socialist health care systems.

    Ryan's plan is to put medicare on a strict market diet in the hopes that market forces will lower costs.

    Suderman you did a good job of telling us what Obamacare did and does and how dems sold it....perhaps you should start telling us how Ryan's plan will work rather then criticizing how Ryan presents it.

    or better yet tell us how it works and tell us how he presents it good and bad.

  • Archimedes||

    The GOP is the Party of Medicare Mediocrity.

    FIFY.

  • ||

    Ryan's plan is to use vouchers to make market forces lower health care costs.

    The libertarian plan that has come out of every libertarian think tank for the past 30 years...is to use vouchers to make market forces lower health care costs.

    There is a lot to bitch about Ryan as a libertarian, even specifics in regards to medicare....but come the fuck on.

  • AlmightyJB||

    It's Suderman, what did you expect?

  • ||

    I expect him to look at it at least as well as he did Obamacare.

    Though I might be being a little harsh. His article was pretty much a quicky sicky response to Ryan's speech tonight.

  • Calidissident||

    My concern is that when we're talking about subsidized vouchers, it's far too easy for politicians to make any market forces worthless by using them to buy senior votes and pay off health insurance companies

  • ||

    Those are good concerns. I would love it if a skilled journalist who has proven experience analyzing health care plans like Suderman look at them and wrote about them.

    Don't you think that would be nice?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Those are good concerns. I would love it if a skilled journalist who has proven experience analyzing health care plans like Suderman look at them and wrote about them.

    Don't you think that would be nice?"

    Since every candidate, including the Libertarian candidate, is vowing to preserve Medicare, it would be nice to see the actual proposed plans compared to each other instead of the fictional ones.

  • Archimedes||

  • steve walsh||

    Ryan would never have made it to the stage, and Romney wouldn't have a hope of being elected, if he advocated eliminating budget deficits by, in part, killing medicare. The American people, through the actions of the voting public, will not tolerate substantive changes to the way Medicare works. Your, and my, issue is with them not the Romney/Ryan ticket.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    They will accept changes, but only in the context of making it viable for future generations, without pulling the rug out from under the current recipients.

    If you want to reform Medicare (and we must) this is the only way to get it done. It won't fly if people think it's just a ruse to eliminate the program or make massive cuts.

  • John||

    According to his website, Gary Johnson plans to save Medicare by block granting it to the states. No where thAt I can find does he promise to kill Medicare or do anything but save it. Is the Libertarian party they party of Medicare now? If not why not?

  • BigT||

    Ryan sees Medicare like a village in Nam - we had to destroy the village to save it.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Obama: "Obama said he has proposed 'reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system and reining in insurance companies -- reforms that won't touch your guaranteed Medicare benefits.'"
    http://www.freep.com/article/2.....e-from-GOP

    Romney: "Mitt’s plan honors commitments to current seniors while giving the next generation an improved program that offers the freedom to choose what their coverage under Medicare should look like. Instead of paying providers directly for medical services, the government’s role will be to help future seniors pay for an insurance option that provides coverage at least as good as today’s Medicare"
    http://www.mittromney.com/issues/medicare

    Johnson: "MOST PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON SEEM TO THINK that we can control spending and balance the budget without reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is lunacy.

    Identify and implement common-sense cost savings to place Medicare on a path toward long-term solvency."

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "he chose to defend the idea that the program was not only worth preserving but worth defending from any and all of the other party's cuts."

    And which candidate is making an argument that Medicare is not worth preserving?
    None

  • CampingInYourPark||

    For some reason links to the Johnson statement on his web site are marked as spam

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Stein: “time for all Americans to reject the failed Obama and Romney approach to the health crisis, and demand an improved Medicare for All system that provides health care to all at an affordable price.”
    http://www.jillstein.org/romneycare_and_obamacare

  • TrinityJonz||

    I believe Ryan's plan can and will be used over time -- a somewhat long time -- to privatize Medicare. How? Under his plan, people 55 and under will be given options -- possibly lots of options -- as alternatives. I'm sure that these will include private sector options.

    And I have faith in the marketplace -- that is, I believe that the marketplace options will win out and Medicare will shrink and, I hope, disappear because it's just not the best alternative people can choose.

    I just think that right now Romney and Ryan have to win the first really crucial battle in this really important war. Stop the Mediscare Express, generate buy-in to their already clearly stated alternative -- the under 55 choice option.

    They can't roll out any really long term vision now -- that wouldn't make political sense.

    And in fact, I think this approach -- creating private marketplace alternatives to Social Security and who know what else -- will be how the Republicans can lead and wean us all off the public teat.

    I really believe this is what Ryan and people like him (and myself, for that matter) are aiming for. This election is just step 1.

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