Republicans Are Way Out On A Limb When It Comes To Ryan's Plan To Kill Medicare
Father Stephen Umhoefer, 72, was the pastor for Paul Ryan when he was growing up. The idea of Ryan becoming vice president has him "worried" because Ryan‘s austerity budget and proposed steep cuts in social programs are inconsistent with the Catholic teachings that Ryan cites to justify the policies. "He shouldn't wrap himself in Catholic teaching because he is not using that [teaching] in what I would say is a balanced way," said Umhoefer.
For Umhoefer, the test of the budget is a simple one: "The first question is how does this affect the poor. And everything else follows from that. That doesn't mean it's a Republican or Democrat [question]-- you could argue that. But the primary question is how does this affect the poor?"
Umhoefer said that Ryan's lack of attention to the poor and the emphasis on individualism espoused by role models such as Ayn Rand concerned him. "Paul would say that the only way to save the country from a coming [fiscal] disaster is 'follow my plan.'" But according to Umhoefer, the problem is "you can't tell somebody that in ten years your economic situation is going to be just wonderful because meanwhile your kids may starve to death."
Umhoefer said that in Janesville, which lost some 5,000 jobs related to the auto industry after a GM plant closed in 2009, residents continue to seek emergency food and housing support and social service organizations have been running out of funds. A house across the street from the church sits with a red "condemned" sticker prominently on the door, and another house on the block has a sign that declares, "Price Reduced."
"The welfare check runs out and people are suffering now in ways that they haven't before," he said, noting that the church has hired two former auto workers with wages and benefits far below their former level.
Umhoefer said that wealthy church members have offered support for shared sacrifice and revenue raising proposals such as the Warren Buffet rule that asks millionaires to avoid loopholes and pay a tax rate of 30 percent. "I can't always invite my neighbor over to dinner, but I... need to pay a certain amount of taxes. And I need to vote to make sure taxes are used to help make sure that my neighbor isn’t starving," he said.
The video up top is the first DCCC television independent expenditure and, in his attempt to elect reactionary Blue Dog Gary McDowell (MI-01), Steve Israel seeks, appropriately enough, to tie Republican freshman Dan Benishek to Paul Ryan's plan to kill Medicare. Kill Medicare? Is that really what Ryan, Benishek and the rest of the GOP want to do? Oh, absolutely. Yesterday, Paul Krugman did what he calls a utility post as "a summary of what’s actually in the Ryan plan."
In the first decade, the big things are (i) conversion of Medicaid into a block grant program, with much lower funding than projected under current law and (ii) sharp cuts in top tax rates and corporate taxes.
...After the first decade, Medicare is gradually transformed into a voucher scheme, with the value of the vouchers lagging well behind projected health care costs. Even so, however, much of the supposed deficit reduction comes not from Medicare but from further cuts in discretionary spending relative to GDP, with the number eventually falling to 3.5 percent of GDP (see Table 2 in the CBO report). There is, once again, no specification of how this is to be accomplished; bear in mind that this number includes defense, which is currently around 4 percent of GDP.
Ryan basically proposes three big things: slashing Medicaid, cutting taxes on corporations and high-income people, and replacing Medicare with a drastically less well funded voucher system. These concrete proposals would, taken together, actually increase the deficit for the first decade and beyond.
Krugman claims the Ryan plan is so vague and so filled with untenable assumptions that it "isn’t even a plan, it’s just a set of assertions." For a someone who idiots inside the Beltway have been trying to sell for several years as "serious" and a "wonk," Ryan, it turns out, really is just a well-scrubbed gym bunny who can usually regurgitate Wall Street and Insurance Industry talking points fairly well-- even though the talking points don't add up. And now that he's playing in the Big Times, and coming under real scrutiny for those assertions, he's looking more and more like a goof ball and another major Romney embarrassment. Josh Barro's report for Bloomberg yesterday detailed the confusion for the Romney campaign which is hammering Obama for cutting $716 billion out of Medicare even while Ryan's budget, approved by the Republican-controlled House, includes those same cuts. "Conservatives," Barro writes, "are protesting that Ryan's plan to cut Medicare is different from the president's. They're right-- Ryan would actually cut $205 billion more out of Medicare over the next ten years than Obama would... What Romney and Ryan are up to is simple: They want to have it both ways on Medicare. They are for Medicare cuts, because Medicare is expensive and the federal budget needs to be controlled. And they are against Medicare cuts, because Medicare cuts are unpopular. The political impulses behind this strategy are clear. Why any policy experts would try to offer a substantive defense of it is not."
Steve Benen helped clarify what the argument is all about-- inasmuch as anyone could given the confusion at the base of it. "Consider," he suggests, "this remarkable series of events:"
1. President Obama extends new benefits to seniors on Medicare and finds savings in the system to strengthen Medicare's finances.
2. Paul Ryan approves of Obama's Medicare savings and incorporates them into his own budget plan.
3. Mitt Romney endorses Ryan's plan, which includes Obama's Medicare savings.
4. Romney changes his mind, and tries to argue he's for and against the Medicare savings at the same time (for them in Ryan's plan, against then in Obama's law).
And finally 5. Ryan denounces the Medicare savings he supports.
So to review, the Romney/Ryan ticket is for and against Obama's Medicare savings, for and against including Obama's Medicare savings in the Republican budget, for and against extending benefits for seniors, and for and against strengthening Medicare's finance-- all at the same time.
Democratic challengers to Republicans who voted for Ryan's plan to kill Medicare and Medicaid have to figure out how to clarify the issue to local voters. And if they're not anti-Choice and antigay Blue Dogs, it's not very likely Steve Israel will allow the DCCC to help them. They're on their own. In NC-10, for example, state Rep. Patsy Keever gets no help from the DCCC in her battle against Ryan lackey Patrick McHenry, despite the fact that McHenry's support for Ryan's budget who have been absolutely devastating for the residents of the area, raising costs for seniors and individuals with disabilities enrolled in Medicare, reducing their benefits, and putting predatory private insurance companies in charge of the program. For current beneficiaries, important benefits-- such as closing the hole in Medicare’s drug coverage-- would be immediately eliminated. For individuals age 54 and under, Medicare’s guarantee of comprehensive coverage would be replaced with a “voucher,” what Ryan, Romney and McHenry call "premium support,” to buy private health insurance. By design, this federal contribution does not keep pace with medical costs, shifting thousands of dollars in costs onto the individual. Under the old boundaries of NC-10, the budget would have increased prescription drug costs for 8,800 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who enter the Part D donut hole, forcing them to pay an extra $87 million for drugs over the next decade. It also would have eliminated new preventive care benefits for 120,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district. According to a study for the House Energy and Commerce Committee the Ryan-McHenry plan "would have even greater impacts on individuals in the district age 54 and younger who are not currently enrolled in Medicare." It would:
• Deny 510,000 individuals age 54 and younger in the district access to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.
• Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and by almost $12,000 per year in 2032 for the 115,000 individuals in the district who are between the ages of 44 and 54.
• Require the 115,000 individuals in the district between the ages of 44 and 54 to save an additional $26.9 billion for their retirement – an average of $182,000 to $287,000 per individual-- to pay for the increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district will have to save even higher amounts to cover their additional medical costs.
• Raise the Medicare eligibility age by at least one year to age 66 or more for 64,000 individuals in the district who are age 44 to 49 and by two years to age 67 for 393,000 individuals in the district who are age 43 or younger.
With no help from the venal, Blue Dog-loving Israel, how is a progressive like Patsy Keever going to get the money she needs to get the message out in the sprawling North Carolina district. That's where we come in.
And this morning Patsy weighed in-- and very specifically:
By choosing Ryan as his running mate, Governor Romney sent a loud and clear message to all Americans: he’s betting on the far right. We now have a crystal-clear picture of the plan Romney has for America, because it’s the same plan that Congressional Republicans like Patrick McHenry have been trying to push on us for years. Congressman Ryan has been its chief architect, Patrick McHenry has been his faithful servant, and now Mitt Romney has hopped aboard.
The Romney-Ryan-McHenry plan would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system and leaving seniors to fend for themselves in the private market. A nonpartisan expert found that the Ryan/McHenry proposal would cost seniors up to $6,350 every year in additional health care costs. I don’t know where Romney, Ryan and McHenry come from, but most seniors I know can’t afford to pay over $6,000 more a year for health care.
With that-- I’d like to announce my second policy difference in the series of differences that my campaign will be laying out to illustrate the choice voters have to make this fall:
Patrick McHenry wants to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that would cost seniors at minimum an additional six thousand dollars a year for their health care. I want to keep our promise to our seniors and protect the current Medicare benefits that they have earned by paying into the program throughout their lifetimes.
We need congressmembers like Patsy Keever to replace corporate shills like McHenry but we're not going to wake up on the first Wednesday in November and find the good fairy waved a magic wand. It's going to take a lot of work between now and then-- and Patsy and her team are willing to do it. And they need help.