It has been a little over a month since Representative Paul Ryan released the Heritage Foundation’s Path to Prosperity, and the Wisconsin Republican has gone from “courageous” visionary to despised Medicare destroyer. Since Newt Gingrich’s realistic appraisal of the proposal on Sunday, Ryan is once again a hero to the Republican faithful and is enjoying support from his wounded colleagues in Congress. The new-found support for Ryan and his “radical agenda” is surprising in light of the push back and objections from a majority of Americans who are not impressed with Republican efforts to privatize Medicare with a voucher system that leaves recipients underinsured while the savings are handed to the wealthy and corporations in the form of tax cuts. It shows that Republicans do not learn from their mistakes and in fact, keep recommending the same tired proposals in spite of Americans’ wishes.
Newt Gingrich is certainly no friend of the left, but he was astute enough to notice that from the time Ryan offered the Heritage Foundation’s budget proposal, elderly and young Americans alike detested the idea of eliminating Medicare and voiced their outrage during Republicans’ town hall meetings across the country. Indeed, after the angry responses Ryan and his fellow Republicans received from GOP voters, Republicans backed away from their plan to offer vouchers in lieu of Medicare coverage that has worked well since its inception. However, Republicans have planned to privatize Medicare and Social Security for decades, so it is not unexpected that Ryan and his colleagues would offer up the voucher scheme again. It did seem they would let some of the ire die down before making another attempt but Newt Gingrich’s comments changed everything.
Even though Gingrich supported the Heritage/Ryan plan two weeks ago, he, like many Republicans reacted to the pushback from voters and said, “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate” in response to a question on Meet the Press on Sunday. It was an honest characterization borne of comments from outraged seniors in response to news of the privatization scheme. Within a day, Gingrich was recanting and eventually apologized to Ryan.
Gingrich and Ryan are both playing the Sarah Palin victim role now with Gingrich claiming the liberal media distorted his comments out of context, and Ryan by accusing Democrats and the White House of calling his Medicare plan a privatization scheme. Ryan also claims Gingrich unfairly labeled his proposal as radical. Although the comments about his plan are all true, crybaby Ryan’s victim position will play well to ignorant Republicans who lack objectivity in assessing the nature of the comments. On Monday, Ryan seized the opportunity to defend his radical proposals to slash entitlement spending and privatize Medicare in a speech in Chicago before the Economic Club.
In typical Republican fashion, Ryan attempted to characterize the drastic entitlement cuts by reframing them as “strengthening welfare for those who need it.” Regardless of Ryan’s reframing, his plan still calls for eliminating Medicare and replacing it with a voucher that will shrink in value as health care costs rise leaving seniors with insufficient coverage. As the costs rise, seniors will end up paying more out of their own pockets and they acknowledge that Ryan’s scheme will force them to forego procedures and prescriptions because vouchers will not cover the most basic health plan. Ryan also accused Democrats who attacked his proposals of engaging in class warfare. The Ryan/Heritage plan escalates the Republican war on seniors by taking Medicare funds and giving them to the wealthy and corporations in the form of tax cuts and corporate entitlements.
Medicare in its present form is popular among seniors by covering necessary health care costs for all beneficiaries as an affordable single-payer program. In spite of its popularity and efficacy, Ryan attempted to characterize the distinction between his privatization scheme and the current Medicare program as a disagreement. In a prepared statement he said, “Our plan is to give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers. Their plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors.” If the government plan denies care to seniors as Ryan claims, they would be flocking to the Republican voucher plan; but they are not. The outrage that seniors expressed at Ryan’s proposal indicates their satisfaction with Medicare, and their knowledge of health care costs in the private sector informs them a voucher will be insufficient to meet their health care needs.
Republicans will never stop attempting to privatize Medicare or Social Security. They have made numerous attempts since Reagan was president and although there are different players making the proposals, the end result is always the same. Republicans propose a scheme with a misleading label like Ryan’s “premium care” that replaces Medicare with a voucher for health coverage on the open market. It is an old tactic that Republicans dust off every two or four years and propose to the American people who promptly reject it as a radical proposal that will prove to be insufficient compared to the existing Medicare program. The current incarnation is no different than past proposals, but Republicans will keep trying regardless of the consequences.
After Ryan and his Republican cohorts took the proposals to their districts to find outraged citizens unwilling to accept losing their Medicare coverage so Republicans could give more to corporations and the wealthy, they backed off talk of eliminating Medicare. Whether or not Newt Gingrich’s comments infused Republicans with new strength to make another attempt at pushing their privatization scheme is hard to tell, but Ryan’s prepared speech on Monday suggests that he intended to sell his repackaged plan regardless of the anger and objection of seniors. Now that Republicans have rallied around Ryan in a show of solidarity against Gingrich’s condemnation of the plan, there will be a new round of sales pitches on conservative talk shows and radio programs.
Americans can expect new allegations of Democratic class warfare, but the results will be the same. Seniors will not accept losing their Medicare and will see through attacks on Democrats because Republicans are the ones attempting to eliminate Medicare. Regardless of the current outcome, Republicans will continue trying to privatize programs that work for Americans so they can give more to corporations and the wealthy. If nothing else, Republicans are predictable and consistent. They may repackage and rename privatization schemes, oppose tax increases, and cut programs for the least fortunate Americans, but it’s the same agenda. It is what they do best because it is all they know; it is after all, the Republican way.