“Paul Ryan represents Obama’s most horrifying nightmare: Math!”
— David Burge, blogging as “Iowahawk”
By M.D. Harmon
Conservative activists are starting to show up at rallies wearing T-shirts displaying a red-and-blue image of Rep. Paul Ryan in imitation of the famous Obama poster—but in this case, the word underneath the image isn’t “HOPE.” It’s “MATH.”
That fits something else Burge had blogged recently, a simple, direct sentence that said, “You know what will kill Medicare as we know it? Medicare as we know it.”
Which is the most direct way I’ve seen yet of expressing a truth that may be finally beginning to penetrate our national political debate: that those liberals conducting the newest version of the age-old “Mediscare” campaign are confronting an electorate that finally is coming to understand that when they are told it’s possible to keep program viable under its current form, they might as well be promised that they can flap their arms and fly to the moon.
If Rep. Ryan had a campaign slogan of his own, it could be “I have not yet begun to fight!”, John Paul Jones’s famous reply to a British demand to surrender his ship.
Jones won the battle, and Ryan is winning more and more support for his budget reform plan, with a recent poll by a Democratic firm showing Ryan’s plan gaining a 52-37 margin of support among voters who had the plan explained to them.
Soon, perhaps, Ryan may even win over Mitt Romney, who distanced himself from parts of the Ryan plan, preferring (apparently for reasons of political calculation) to say his less-specific outline was going to govern the ticket’s joint campaign.
True, Romney’s plan got some high-powered support last week, with 400 economists (including five Nobel Prize winners) signing on to an online petition (at economistsforromney.com) that says Romney’s plan “is based on proven principles: a more contained and less intrusive federal government, a greater reliance on the private sector, a broad expansion of opportunity without government favors for special interests, and respect for the rule of law, including the decision-making authority of states and localities.”
That is exactly the opposite of what they see Obama doing.
“In stark contrast,” the economists say, “President Obama has failed to advance policies that promote economic and job growth, focusing instead on increasing the size and scope of the federal government, which increases the debt, requires large tax increases, and burdens business with many new financial and health care regulations. The result is an anemic economic recovery and high unemployment. His future plans are to double down on the failed policies, which will only prolong slow growth and high unemployment.”
However, while there’s nothing wrong with Romney’s plan, there is no point in being less than fully invested in reform.
And there are plenty of signs that Ryan is the one with the details that fill in the blanks in Romney’s plan, particularly with Medicare.
It’s especially true that it is becoming widely known that ObamaCare is partly funded by taking $716 billion out of Medicare Advantage plans and other coverages to support his plan’s spending on younger people—a huge transfer apparently designed to reduce Medicare’s viability and force seniors into ObamaCare down the road. (Ryan is being criticized for taking the same amount from benefits, but he sets it aside for future payments under the plan instead of double-counting it as savings, as the administration does.)
Under the newest version of the bipartisan idea jointly proposed by Ryan and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), no one 55 or over has to give up Medicare—and neither does anyone else, as it remains an option for younger workers.
However, Ryan and Wyden would offer subsidies for other forms of coverage from private insurers that, due to competition, would almost certainly offer better coverage for less money. If that happens, fewer and fewer people will pick traditional Medicare, which will eventually wither of its own accord.
That’s one of the reasons why the GOP ought to be going “all in,” as the poker players say, on Romney’s magnificent choice for a running mate—a man who, by the way, has already had his budget approved in the House of Representatives, which is one more house of Congress on his side than President Obama can claim for his fiscal plan.
As a sign of his influence, Ryan has now won endorsements from both halves of the bipartisan leadership of the panel President Obama picked to advise him on how to resolve the nation’s overspending problems.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform became known as the “Bowles-Simpson Commission” in honor of its leaders, Erskine Bowlers, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. senator from Wyoming.
The commission didn’t issue a joint finding, but its leaders did, putting together a package of $1 trillion in wide-ranging tax hikes and $3 trillion in spending cuts that Bowles and Simpson said offered a way to bring entitlement spending under control and lead to a long-term deficit reduction. (Many of the tax measures were reductions in current exemptions, not rate increases, although that may be a distinction without a difference.)
But Obama spurned the idea, preferring instead to push ahead with proposals that included real tax hikes on the highest earners (which would be a “double fail,” as they would both depress business growth and be too small to offer any chance for deficit reduction) along with a health care reform law that has been estimated increase costs by $2.3 trillion over the coming decade.
Democrats’ criticism of Ryan’s plan led his backers to unearth a video clip from last year in which Bowles spoke highly of both Ryan and his budget.
Speaking at the University of North Carolina last September, Bowles said, ““Have any of you met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing, uh. I always thought that I was OK with arithmetic, but this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest. He is straightforward. He is sincere.”
And Bowles didn’t stop with personal praise. He also said he liked what Ryan had achieved: “And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion … just like we did. The president came out with his own plan and the president came out, as you will remember, with a budget and I don’t think anyone took that budget very seriously. Um, the Senate voted against it 97 to nothing.”
Then, last Friday, Alan Simpson weighed in on Ryan’s selection, saying that while he didn’t believe Ryan had been actively seeking to become Romney’s running mate, that status will let him become “a spokesman for hard truth against fakery.”
Bowles has been critical of Mitt Romney’s plan, writing in a Wall Street Journal column recently that the GOP candidate’s tax plan wasn’t “progressive” enough. Since under current law, the top 5 percent of taxpayers pay 38 percent of all income taxes, and the top 50 percent pay more than 95 percent, it’s hard to see his point.
The nation doesn’t need more money sucked out of the productive private side of the economy to feed the nonproductive governmental side.
Instead, it needs to give freedom full rein—and rein in the out-of-control stampede of federal aggrandizement that is Barack Obama’s true goal.
That might be his intent. But Americans can still prevent it from becoming his legacy.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org.