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
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 Senate Republicans on the record. Watch closely.
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.