Monday, March 15, 2010

Does Paul Ryan know where his Roadmap leads?

The fact that Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Social Security might ultimately lead to a federal bailout caught our eye nearly two years ago. And it caught the CBPP's as well ... and Ryan's response suggests the celebrated wonk has no idea of the implications of his bill.

Cost of the Social Security Guarantee

Ryan’s Assertion : Ryan challenges our statement that his requirement that the Treasury bail out private-account holders for stock-market losses could cost $2.9 trillion and that this cost is not reflected in the CBO report on his plan. He claims that CBO explicitly estimated this cost and included it in its projections of his plan.

Our Response : Once again, Rep. Ryan is mistaken and our statements are accurate. We wrote, “These potential bailout costs — like the cost of the plan’s very large tax cuts — are not reflected in the CBO estimates that Rep. Ryan cites when touting the plan’s fiscal responsibility.” We confirmed the accuracy of this statement with CBO before issuing our report. CBO conducted separate analyses of the proposed benefit guarantee, but CBO’s budget estimates reported in Appendix II of the Ryan plan do not include the cost of the guarantee. Moreover, the $2.9 trillion cost estimate does not come from us, as Rep. Ryan implies. Our report clearly states that it is the estimate of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, based on an earlier version of Rep. Ryan’s plan and taking stock-market risk into account.

Why oh why do people take Paul Ryan seriously?

Paul Ryan, admit you want to privatize Social Security already

Krugman explains why.

Paul Ryan's plans can bear little scrutiny...same goes for his defenses

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities eviscerates Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future. Paul Ryan responds. Paul Ryan probably wishes he didn't.

Paul Ryan distorts Obamacare, but what else is new

Media Matters fact checks Paul Ryan's latest op ed in The Washington Post.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Paul Ryan's Randian road map

Ever since the intrepid Howard Gleckman revealed that the Road Map for America's Future does not, in fact, balance the budget, there's been a great deal of well-deserved piling on. Paul Ryan's response to the critique, meanwhile, is anemic.

But one of the more interesting analyses is by Jonathan Chait, who puts the Road Map in historical-political context:

The roadmap clarifies the essence of the Republican Party's approach to domestic policy issues. The essence is opposition to the downward redistribution of income. The principle first emerged under Ronald Reagan, but only in fits and starts--Republican presidents agreed to a tax reform in 1986 and a deficit reduction in 1990 that did redistribute income from rich to poor. Over the last twenty years, though, opposition to downward redistribution has hardened into the sacred tenet of Republican policymaking. Ryan's plan both codifies this principle and shows just how far the party is willing to go in its service.

Every major element of Ryan's plan reflects this commitment. Begin with his proposed tax changes.

Why does Ryan roll this way? Blame it on Ayn:

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers. What's telling about Ryan's program is not so much that a hard-core ideologue like him would advocate it. It's that virtually the whole of the conservative movement has embraced him. ...

The rise of Ryan is a sign that the possibilities for bipartisan cooperation on domestic issues are, at the moment, essentially nil. This point is obscured by the figure of Ryan, a cheerful and courteous man who gives every sense of wanting to deal in good faith. But his goals, which are now fully the goals of the conservative movement and the Republican Party, are diametrically opposed to the liberal vision of capitalism shorn of its cruelest edges. His basic moral premises are foreign, even abhorrent, to liberals. He seems like a person you'd like to negotiate with, but there's nothing to negotiate over. Ryan is waging a zero sum fight over resources on behalf of the most fortunate members of society and against everybody else.

Ryan is better understood as an ideologue -- a great pol and a great marketer, to be sure, but first and foremost and ideologue -- than as a wonk.

NYT conservative columnist Ross Douthat attempts a response, failing utterly to take into account how the CBO notes that poor seniors get screwed in Ryan's plan to blow up Medicare.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why does the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of Paul Ryan suck?

In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel we learn that Paul Ryan is "praised" for his alternative health-care plan.

Who's doing the praising? A guy from the Heritage Foundation and a former McCain advisor.

Shocking that two rightwingers would praise Ryan.

The story says:

Ryan's proposal, part of what he calls "A Roadmap for America's Future," would replace the existing Medicare benefit for people under 55 with a voucher that could be used to buy private insurance. The payment, which Ryan has said would initially average $11,000 a year, would be adjusted for inflation and tied to income.

That would lessen the fiscal challenges facing the Medicare program because health care spending outpaces overall inflation. But at the same time, it could lower costs by putting pressure on doctors and hospitals to become more efficient.

The story fails to note that the way Ryan's plan really lowers cost is by balancing the budget on the backs of poor seniors.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shocking news: Paul Ryan misleads on Obamacare

Deficit chickenhawk Paul Ryan's star turn during the health care summit set tongues wagging in the right wing blogosphere, including this guy, and Wingnutty Investors Business Daily smirked that no one had refuted Paul Ryan's arguments.

That may be because Paul Ryan's critiques, while dishonest, are indisputably well crafted.

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein has that response that so many on the right were waiting for:
To sum up, then, Ryan makes some good points about the true cost of the bill and realities of the federal budget. But he purposefully omits any mention of the bill's expected savings, disingenuously attaches the price tag of a broken Republican policy onto the health-care reform bill, and selectively stops extrapolating trends when they don't fit his points. It's a presentation designed to make the bill look less fiscally responsible than it really is.

But don't listen to me. Robert Reischauer is the head of the Urban Institute. He's also one of the CBO's most revered former directors, in no small part because his relentlessly honest cost estimates helped doom Bill Clinton's bill in 1994. I reached him earlier today and asked whether he thought this bill made fiscal sense. "Were I in Congress and asked to vote on this," he replied, "I'd vote in favor." The bill isn't perfect, he continued, "but it at least has the prospect for creating a platform over which more significant and far-reaching cost containment can be enacted."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Deficit hawk Paul Ryan's Road Map for higher deficits

From a Feb. 24 letter to Paul Ryan from the CBO:

As you requested, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has calculated the budgetary effects of an alternative policy scenario that would modify CBO's most recent baseline projections (released on January 26, 2010). As you also requested, we have computed the amount of additional revenues necessary, starting in 2019, to balance the budget in 2020 under that scenario.'

The lettr continues:

You asked CBO to assume the following changes to the assumptions underlying the baseline projections:
-- Extend the expiring tax provisions of EGTRRA and JGTRRA, except for those related to estate and gift taxes;
-- Make 2009 estate and gift tax law permanent;
-- Index the 2009 AMT exemption and income bracket amounts for inflation after 2009;
-- Assume war funding as specified in the President's proposed budget for fiscal year
The three changes to the tax policy assumptions are estimated to increase deficits relative to the baseline projections by $9 billion in 2010 and $3.4 trillion over the 2011-2020 period, mostly from lower revenues but also from increased outlays for refundable tax credits. Relative to baseline projections, CBO estimates that the alternative path for war funding would increase deficits by $24 billion in 2010 and $48 billion in 2011, but would reduce deficits each year thereafter through 2020, generating net reductions in deficits of about $700 billion over the 2011-2020 period.2 As a result of those alternative tax and spending assumptions, federal debt would be higher than in the baseline projection,adding an estimated $644billion for debt service to outlays from 2011 through 2020. All of the changes together would increase projected deficits by $33 billion in 2010 and $3.4 trillion over the 2011-2020 period, relative to baseline estimates.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

If Paul Ryan had an ounce of courage

There has been a ton of hooey about Paul Ryan is somehow courageous for raising a Roadmap for America's future that balances the budget on the backs of poor seniors. Scot Ross nails what true courage from Paul Ryan would have looked like:
Contrary to the revisionist history being offered, if Ryan had an ounce of courage, he would have stood up to the profligacy, corruption and bankruptcy of Tom DeLay and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, perhaps even once. Once. These policies of failure resulted in an entire decade of no job creation -- something unprecedented in American history.

Palin-Paul Ryan in 2012

Demonstrating his intellectual heft, Paul Ryan doesn't say no to being second banana on a Palin presidential ticket.

Paul Ryan: Obama is "insincere!" Wah wah wah!

Unlike,say, Paul Ryan who has done more than Obama to create our current deficit situation, thanks to his voting for Bush's irresponsible budgets and providing a critical vote to the deficit-financed Medicare drug benefit. The same Paul Ryan who lashes the Obama administration for not fixing the mess he created fast enough.
Paul Ryan: Not credible.
From the New York Times.
Meanwhile,K-Lo joins the pity party.

Peggy Noonan loves Paul Ryan

Shorter Peggy Noonan: It will take a skillful politician to make Americans balance the budget on the backs of poor senions, a more skillful politician that Margaret Thatcher,who was derailed by that whole poll tax nonsense.

Paul Ryan claims his numbers work

Paul Ryan responds to Howard Gleckman's argument that his revenue assumptions are unrealistic. Take a look.

Patrick McIlheran: Let Paul Ryan set people free to go without healthcare

Patrick McIlheran, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's conservative columnist who has hung onto his job due to his willingness to link to right wing blogs,knows why Democrats have come out firing against Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's future.
They hate freedom!
But the real problem for those on the dominant left of the Democratic Party is what you'd think makes Ryan's plans palatable: That they're voluntary. If you think Social Security's a good deal, you'd be able to stay in it, but for "progressives," this choice should never come up. For a century, progressive thought has sought to replace individual choice with collective decision-making.

The reasons vary, from seeing us as incompetent dupes to believing that only some compelled "social compact" can undo life's unfairness. The why is less important than the fact that, in fixing federal finances while treating us as individuals, not a herd, Ryan would transfer power from our leaders to us.

The fact that middle class and poor seniors won't fare well in Paul Ryan's Ayn Rand utopia, that it makes impractical cuts in the federal budget, and, oh yeah, the GOP is running away from it, never comes up in McIlheran's column.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notices Paul Ryan supports the stimulus package

But his flack says it's just constituent service!

Paul Ryan's roadmap: "Pure Bilge"

While some silly people continue to claim we should be grateful for introducing a slippery plan to fix some of our country's "systemic ills," Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at Paul Ryan's Roadmap.

He finds the Paul Ryan roadmap to be "pure bilge."

Social Security comes in for particular abuse. Ryan states that "Social Security's shrinking value and fragile condition pose a serious problem. . . . To maintain the program's significant role as a part of the retirement security safety net, Social Security's mission must be fulfilled . . . without bankrupting future workers."

One doesn't want to be picky about an elected congressman's words, but with all due respect, these words are pure bilge. They come straight from the talking points of Social Security's historical enemies: conservatives who have never believed that the government should play such an important role in people's retirement planning, and mutual fund and insurance companies that hanker for the business generated by millions of Americans looking for a profitable place to park their retirement assets.

Social Security's value to the average American isn't "shrinking" -- it’s expanding. In 1962, it accounted for 30% of the income of Americans aged 65 and older; in 2007 that figure was 36%. (These numbers come from the Social Security Administration.) Given what's happened to most families' financial assets since 2007, the percentage probably is even higher today.

Its "fragile condition"? Social Security runs an annual surplus and has done so since 1983; no other government program can make that claim.

By the way, even when the program starts paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll tax, that's not a "crisis," as it's often portrayed -- it's the expected outcome of changes implemented after 1982, when the tax was raised sharply to provide a cushion against the coming wave of baby-boomer retirements. The accumulated surplus in the program's trust fund at the end of 2008 was $2.4 trillion.

But ... what about the freedom of parking money in private accounts?

But as with every "guarantee" of financial wealth, this is a shell game. For one thing, the guarantee has to be funded from the federal budget -- presumably by borrowing. That's because Ryan's plan sucks revenue out of the program for years before the ostensible gains from stock market earnings take root.

When Social Security's chief actuary examined a Ryan proposal in 2008 (it's nearly identical to the Roadmap provisions, as far as I can tell), he concluded that annual infusions from the general fund totaling $4.3 trillion in present value would be required over a long, 30-year transition period, from 2032 through 2063.

"The individual account plans don't hurt in the short term," economist Peter A. Diamond of MIT, an expert on Social Security, told me this week. "But over the medium term they hurt a lot."

Diamond observes that shifting any portion of the program's funding to the general fund from the payroll tax, which is dedicated to Social Security and Medicare, undermines the future of Social Security.

"Politically, dedicated revenue is much more secure than revenue you have to take out of the annual budget," Diamond says. "The fact that we'll go through an extended period with the money coming out of the annual budget puts Social Security at risk. And the fact that to handle this we've got to do a whole lot more borrowing puts the finances of the entire federal government at risk."

As the Congressional Budget Office advised Ryan last month, the guarantee would become even costlier "during periods of economic stress" like recessions -- for that's when investment returns are most likely to fall below the inflation rate and therefore trigger greater and possibly more politically sensitive infusions from the government. One could argue that such major market reversals will occur only rarely in any average worker's lifetime. But one could also point out that we've had two in the last 11 years.

So what's Ayn Rand fan Paul Ryan really up to?

What is Ryan really up to? His Roadmap would achieve a goal that conservative opponents of Social Security have cherished for decades: killing the program by undermining its broad base of popular support. It would sap Social Security's resources, increase its complexity and hammer a wedge between the currently retired or near-retired (who would be guaranteed their current statutory benefits) and younger workers and the future workforce (who would be increasingly on their own). The term for this is "divide and conquer."

Paul Ryan: We're on the road to serfdom

Did you know that many Americans are more worried about their material support from the government than their own liberties? That right now the government is more concerned about equalizing outcomes than equalizing opportunities? That the government is doing so much in our lives that we have less freedom? That we are, in short, on the road to serfdom?

If not, then you haven't watched Paul Ryan's interview with John Stossel. Oh, yeah: Despite his vote, Paul Ryan -- who has spent most of his adult life working for government -- thinks we shouldn't have bailed out the auto companies. Suck on that, auto workers of WI-1.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why does the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of Paul Ryan's policies suck?

Milwaukee Magazine recently noted an anti-Ryan blog did a better job covering critiques of Paul Ryan's Road Map.

Now Folkbum points out that while the MJS can cover Ryan's popularity, it's not very good at covering his proposals. (I talked about the woeful coverage of Paul Ryan at my eponymous blog more than a year ago).

Paul Ryan, loon

Jonathan Chait weighs in on Paul Ryan and his intellectual influences.

Charles Krauthammer wants Paul Ryan to be face of GOP at Health Care summit

Perhaps Charles Krauthammer wasn't told the Republican Party is running from the Road Map:

"Here's what you do: you show up and you designate one guy who knows a lot about all this health care stuff as your only spokesman. You don't have people raising their hands and shouting questions. You pick Paul Ryan who knows this stuff up and down."

Paul Ryan justifies himself to the wingnuts

Paul Ryan last week took heat from rightwingers for his votes on TARP, the auto bailout and taxing AIG bonuses. Paul Ryan now justifies these votes to the wingnuts. He regrets the vote on bonuses (the vote seemed populist then, looks like big gummint now). He also says TARP was necessary because only massive goverment intervention could keep alive his Randian free market ideals. Seriously:

I believe we were on the cusp of a deflationary spiral which would have created a Depression. I think that’s probably pretty likely. If we would have allowed that to happen, I think we would have had a big government agenda sweeping through this country so fast that we wouldn’t have recovered from it. So in order to prevent a Depression and a complete evisceration of the free market system we have, I think it was necessary. It wasn’t a fun vote. You don’t get to choose the kind of votes you want. But I just think as far as the long term objectives that I have — which are restoring the principles of this country — I think it was necessary to prevent those principles from being really kind of wiped out for a generation.

Strangely, he was not questioned about his votes for the Bush budgets and for the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Paul Ryan's Road Map "politically ludicrous"

Bruce Bartlett is sympathetic to the idea of making major cuts to entitlement programs to balance the budget. So he's sympathetic to some of Paul Ryan's ideas. That doesn't mean he thinks they'll get traction:

The Ryan plan is, of course, politically ludicrous. It would be impossible to get Congress to even implement one of its major provisions, let alone all of them simultaneously. And I say this as someone who in principle supports many of the ideas in his plan. For example, I believe we must raise the retirement age, and it's hard to see how we can meaningfully reform the health system to reduce cost inflation as long as health insurance is free of taxation. But I don't delude myself that it is possible to implement such changes absent a major transformation in political attitudes or conditions that do not now exist.

Paul Ryan deserves credit? For what?

Robert Samuelson and other parties say that, agree with Paul Ryan or not, you have to give Paul Ryan credit for putting challenging issues on the table.

But the thing is, he doesn't do that.

Not only is the Road Map politically -- within his own party -- a nonstarter. It's that the Road Map doesn't even do what it purports to do: balance the budget.

The Roadmap is not the work of a serious politician trying to grapple with the serious issues of the day. It's the work of a Randian ideologue, who apart from working in the family business has had zero experience in this thing "the free market" -- devising schemes to take out social programs that dont' fit in with his view of America.

I would be tempted to give Paul Ryan credit if he would produce a Road Map that was politically realistic and wasn't based on dubious revenue assumptions. I would be tempted to give Paul Ryan credit if he hadn't voted for the Bush budgets and a deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug benefit. I'd be tempted to give Paul Ryan credit if he would refrain from making false accusations -- and challenging members of his party and, say, Chariel Sykes --against the Dem plan. I'd be tempted to give Paul Ryan credit if he wouldn't whine about being attacked when he's been a point person in lobbying bogus accusations against Dem plans.

But he's not, so, contra Samuelson, I'm not giving Paul Ryan credit for anything.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paul Ryan talks Ayn Rand on Facebook

Did you know that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking? That capitalism is under assault and we're going to replace it with a "Crony capitalism collectivist government run system"? If not, then you haven't viewed these two embarrassingly fanboyish Facebook videos by Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan: Will America "joing the list of other mediocre countries and just become another social welfare state"

Man, these Facebook videos are a hoot. Paul Ryan's Christmas message, in which he exhorts his fans to join him in a battle of ideas.

Barney Frank embarrasses Paul Ryan

Barney Frank asks an obvious question. From the fall of 2009:

You know what bugs Paul Ryan about the Democratic health care plan?

It's not one provision or another. It's the fact that it's based on the "notion and philosophy of paternalism" ... "it's the arrogant notion that the federal government can better organize...the health care sector...than we as individuals can" ... it's "collectivist"

These are some of Paul Ryan's more substantial arguments in a video at the Paul Ryan Facebook site.

"Collectivist" Social Security helped Paul Ryan pay for college

One of Paul Ryan's hobby horses is that the country is in danger of becoming a European-style welfare state, apparently terrible thing.

Which is odd given that he is the beneficiary of the "collectivist system of Social Security." From a US News & World Report snapshot:

Ryan's father died when Paul was only 16. Using the Social Security survivors benefits he received until his 18th birthday, he paid for his education at Miami University in Ohio, where he completed a bachelor's degree in economics and political science in 1992.

Now, it is obviously a sad and terrible thing that Paul Ryan's father died when he was so young. But the benefits Paul received are exactly the kind of thing doled out by the "welfare state" he loves to demonize as a tyrannizing force.

Proximity to Paul Ryan makes you lose sight of what a wingnut he is

It could just be me, but Wisconsinites are so inured Paul Ryan that they sometime lose sight of just how wacky he is. His love of Ayn Rand, for instance. Seems totally normal in southeastern Wisconsin, where WTMJ conservative talker Charlie Sykes regularly sings her praises.

Then you read his words in an outside source -- here, Talking Points Memo -- and once again you realize, "This guy is a wingnut."

At a 2005 celebration of what would have been Rand's 100th birthday, Ryan called for reforming the "collectivist system" of Social Security by changing it to individual savings accounts.

"If we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing Social Security, think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist. They will be an owner of society," Ryan said at the 2005 event, according to a profile written last year in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Ryan's poor taste in reading isn't limited to Ayn Rand, as he's also a fan of Liberal Fascism. Paul Ryan=Republican intellectual heavyweight.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

About Paul Ryan's unrealistic budget cuts

Enough about how Paul Ryan's Road Map balances the budget on the backs of poor seniors, says the Economist's Democracy in America blog. Let's look at its totally unrealistic discretionary spending cuts:

On a more meaningful timeframe, say the ten-year projection, Mr Ryan's bill cuts the deficit from 7.4% of GNP (under the CBO's "alternative scenario" of current trends) to 3.7% of GNP. But only 0.4% of that cut comes from reducing health-care costs. The rest of it comes from freezing non-defence discretionary spending in nominal terms. This is so drastic as to be impossible; but more important, it's not really relevant to Mr Ryan's health-care policies. Looking further out, Mr Ryan's major Medicare savings kick in in 2021, but even by 2040, he is still only getting about half of his spending cuts from Medicare and Medicaid. The other half comes from that nominal-dollars spending freeze.

In other words, Mr Ryan's health-care reforms don't actually balance the budget. He slashes Medicare and Medicaid drastically, but to balance the budget, he still has to project unrealistic cuts in everything else the federal government does (apart from defence, for whatever reason). And the burden of Mr Ryan's health-care cuts will fall on the poor and the sick, because he doesn't do any work to make the system more fair.

FrontPageMag: Paul Ryan's plan doesn't go far enough,let's just off seniors to balance the budget

Paul Ryan wants to balance the budget by providing less care to seniors. The neoLeninists at FrontPageMag want to go one step further: just kill Medicare:

But here is an even larger question: Why should ending Medicare be a bad thing? From whichever angle we look at it, Medicare has been a disaster. Ending it would be a good thing. In fact, America cannot prosper financially while Medicare continues in its present form.

Paul Ryan voted to add $5 trillion to the national debt and all we got was a lousy Road Map

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly also is flummoxed by Paul Ryan's pity party in Michael Gerson's column:

But the entire pitch is nevertheless pretty silly. Ryan voted for budgetary and economic policies that added $5 trillion to the national debt over eight years. He supported the budgetary and economic policies that took a $230 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.3 trillion deficit. He was proud to endorse all kinds of measures -- including two wars and Medicare expansion -- that cost a bundle, but which Ryan and his cohorts never even tried to pay for.

But now Paul Ryan has decided it's time to clean up the mess he helped create, and to do so, he wants to go after Medicare and Social Security. When the left suggests that's ridiculous, Ryan concludes that Democrats are big meanies.

Dog bites man, Paul Ryan's Road Map cuts taxes for the wealthy

From Talking Points Memo:

The roadmap has a GOP grab-bag of tax cuts, eliminating capital gains taxes, interest income taxes, the alternative minimum tax and estate tax Republicans dubbed the "death" tax. It also increases the standard deduction for tax filers.

Paul Ryan: Please don't take my very serious plan seriously

Hilarious. First John Boehner wouldn't touch Paul Ryan's Road Map with a ten-foot pole. Now even Paul Ryan is runningnotwalking from it as a serious policy proposal.

Talking Points Memo notes that Ryan's plan is technically correct but also terribly misleading.

It's true: the roadmap and the GOP budget are two different things. The GOP budget will be aspirational, and create 10-year picture of what federal deficits will look like if their policies were enacted. Ryan's roadmap, by contrast, is a bill (a series of GOP policies) that, if enacted, would create actual changes to the federal balance sheet. The GOP could use his legislation as a guideline for their own alternative budget, or they could use other policy ideas.

But Ryan's roadmap is an example of how Republican ideas could be implemented to lower deficits in the long term--and it's the only comprehensive plan out there. A snapshot of what the GOP would likely do to eliminate deficits if they returned to power.

Michael Gerson gives Paul Ryan a shoulder to cry on

From today's Michael Gerson column in the Washington Post, Paul Ryan bemoans how his deceptively packaged plan to shred the social safety net is being pilloried.

The attack "came out of the Democratic National Committee, and that is the White House," Ryan told me recently, sounding both disappointed and unsurprised. On the deficit, Obama's outreach to Republicans has been a ploy, which is to say, a deception. Once again, a president so impressed by his own idealism has become the nation's main manufacturer of public cynicism.

To Ryan, the motivations of Democratic leaders are transparent. "They had an ugly week of budget news. They are precipitating a debt crisis, with deficits that get up to 85 percent of GDP and never get to a sustainable level. They are flirting with economic disaster." So they are attempting some "misdirection," calling attention to Ryan's recently updated budget road map -- first unveiled two years ago -- which proposes difficult entitlement reforms. When all else fails, change the subject to Republican heartlessness.

This quote cracked me up:

But unlike Kemp -- who didn't give a rip for deficits, being focused exclusively on economic growth -- Ryan is the cheerful prophet of deficit doom. "For the first generation of supply-siders," he explains, "the fiscal balance sheet was not as bad. The second generation of supply-siders needs to be just as concerned about debt and deficits. They are the greatest threats to economic growth today."

It would have been nice if Paul Ryan had demonstrated concern about deficits when he provided a critical vote for the deficit-financed Medicare drug benefit, which is more expensive than the Dem health care plan. Bruce Bartlett:

Just to be clear, the Medicare drug benefit was a pure giveaway with a gross cost greater than either the House or Senate health reform bills how being considered. Together the new bills would cost roughly $900 billion over the next 10 years, while Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion.

Moreover, there is a critical distinction--the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit, whereas the health reform measures now being debated will be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, adding nothing to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (See here for the Senate bill estimate and here for the House bill.)

Anti-intellectualism in Paul Ryan Politics

Ezra Klein shreds Ross Douthat's defense of Paul Ryan's Road Map and his attack on the plan's critics.

What's wrong with Paul Ryan? Why is he so dishonest?

Lou Kaye of Rock Netroots asks a good question.

Needed: Better media scrutiny of the Paul Ryan plan

Media Matters points out that the media missed the fine print on Paul Ryan's Road Map for America -- namely that it assumes revenue will remain the same as the status quo even though his plan calls for massive tax cuts.

Closer to home, Milwaukee Magazine's Erik Gunn wonders why an anti-Ryan blog is doing a better job than the Wisconsin media of covering critiques of the Paul Ryan Road Map.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is Ryan's Road Map the Next Contract With America?

Is Paul Ryan's Road Map for America's Future the next Contract With America, a potential ideological rallying point for Republicans in 2010?

Talking Points Memo talks to former Cong. Jim Nussle, who says Yes.

Former Rep. Jim Nussle, the architect of Republican budgets under President George W. Bush, says the GOP should spend political capital and embrace a plan that privatizes Social Security and ends Medicare. In an interview with TPMDC, Nussle said that even though Republican leadership isn't publicly jumping on board to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget "roadmap," it is a fiscally responsible framework that will guide the Republicans into the campaign season.

"Even if they don't go exactly the way he wants them to with the roadmap he gives them a lot of good ideas to pick and choose from," Nussle told me today.

And Nussle (R-IA) knows something about writing Republican spending plans, since he led the Budget Committee during Bush's first term. He most recently served as Bush's Office of Management and Budget director, lost the Iowa governor's race in 2006 and now leads a consulting firm.

Nussle compares the early reaction to the Ryan roadmap to when he and Rep. John Boehner (now minority leader) wrote the Contract with America in 1994.

I think the analogy breaks down very quickly, for a number of reasons.

1. The content. The Road Map is concerned about big issues that have significant implications for the country and every American while the Contract with America was about gimmicks (tax credits, etc.), beating up the poor (welfare reform) and other chunks of right wing red meat (sticking it to the UN, tort reform, etc.)

2. The framing. When it was presented, health care reform was the biggest issue of the day and most Americans wanted some degree of health care (see Theda Skocpol's Boomerang). The Contract, as noted, had nothing to do with health care. Presumably deliberately, to shift the narrative.

3. The level of public interest. As also noted in Boomerang, public awareness of the Contract was not very high and did not have much of an impact in races. It became important in retrospect and in beltway spin. The interest in health care and the future of Social Security is a bit higher.

4. The presentation. The Contract was part of an overall pitch by a disciplined party with effective leadership. The Republican Party is very good at saying no, but, as shown by Republicans who one day praise Ryan's plan and then back off from it, they're not necessarily good at that vision thing.

5. The political context. In 1994 the Republicans were more popular than Dems and increasingly seen as the best party to lead. That is definitively not the case now.

Paul Ryan's Road Map is a big plan -- a misguided plan, to be sure -- but a big plan to take on big issues. The Contract with America was a gimmick whose resonance with voters has been greatly overstated (though its resonance with "the political class" is a different matter). The Road Map is not the next Contract anymore than 2010 is going to be 1994.

Sarah Palin has starbursts for Paul Ryan

"He's good. Man, he is sharp. He is smart, articulate, and he is passionate about these common-sense solutions that America has got to adopt to get us on the right road," said Palin.

Wingnuts attack Paul Ryan: Not wingnutty enough!

Paul Ryan Watch has observed that Paul Ryan's fiscal conservative schtick is fairly humorous, given his votes for TARP, the deficit-financed Medicare drug benefit, and the auto bailout.

Wingnuts have paid attention to Paul Ryan's record and found it wanting in ideological purity:

Says Matt Lewis at Daily Call:

Though he talks like Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, some of Ryan’s most high-profile votes seem closer to Keynes than to Adam Smith. For example, in the span of about a year, Ryan committed fiscal conservative apostasy on three high-profile votes: The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP (whereby the government purchased assets and equity from financial institutions), the auto-bailout (which essentially implied he agrees car companies – especially the ones with an auto plant in his district—are too big to fail), and for a confiscatory tax on CEO bonuses (which essentially says the government has the right to take away private property—if it doesn’t like you).

While Ryan’s overall voting record is very conservative, the problem with casting these high-profile votes is that they demonstrate he is willing to fundamentally reject conservatism when the heat is on. ...

Though Ryan has downplayed his bad votes, what is more interesting is that few conservatives seem to hold them against him. His many defenders (and trust me, I’ve encountered them) cavalierly dismiss his voting record as mere pragmatism, or an easily forgiven mistake, like, ‘Oops, I voted for $700 billion! My bad…’

Still others, when pressed, his apologists often admit they support him because of his style and intellect, despite his actual voting record. The irony, of course, is that conservatives were furious when Clinton and Obama apologists dismissed their flaws by saying, “but he’s so smart,” or “he’s cool…”

Lewis notes that just last year Michelle Malkin took a shot at Ryan.

Then again, these are probably good ideological opponents for Ryan to have.

Should Paul Ryan expect a tea party challenger?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The false courageousness of Paul Ryan

Well, it appears the Dems are going to put Paul Ryan's widely hated -- by Ryan's fellow R's -- Roadmap to a vote.

Paul Ryan realizes his plan is deeply unpopular -- that whole balancing the budget on the backs of poor senior thing. (And the fact it's based on dubious assumptions, and doesn't control costs,and even in the best case won't fix the budget for 70 years).

Faced with this backlash, Ryan is making grandiose statements about how "If I lose my job over this, fine. But I want to prevent a fiscal crisis."

What job would he lose? His ranking minority position? ('Twould be hilarious if the fair haired idea boy of the GOP were to be busted down.) Or would he be defeated in an election? That's difficult to imagine, given his only declared opponent has $546 on hand vs. $1.6 million by Paul Ryan. One suspects his job security is pretty solid. Act Blue is trying to change that, but it's, uh, uphill.

Paul Ryan is hurt Dems are attacking the Road Map

Paul Ryan, when not grandstanding about how the Administration isn't cleaning up the mess he helped create, is deeply hurt that Democrats are attacking the Road Map to Perdition:

"As one Member of the Minority party in the House of Representatives, I have offered a plan that puts the budget and economy on a sustainable path, according to the Congressional Budget Office," Ryan said in a statement. "It was my hope that it would lead to a constructive debate about solutions – not partisan attacks and false claims – to a problem America must address.”

It's unclear whether he's disappointed that Republicans are running scared from his plan as well.

Remember when Paul Ryan voted against earmark reform?

It's all too funny watching Paul Ryan pose as a tribune of fiscal rectitude. It's not just because he voted for Bush's budgets, it's not just because he voted for the deficit-financed Medicare drug benefit.

It's also because, just three short years ago, Paul Ryan voted against earmark reform and responsible budgeting:

Most Republicans supported the curbs on earmarks but opposed the other key piece of the package: restoring a "pay-as-you-go" rule requiring that any new tax cuts or entitlement programs not add to the deficit. That means such measures would have to be "paid for" by raising revenue or cutting spending elsewhere in the budget.

"This will have the back-door effect of simply raising taxes," said Janesville Rep. Paul Ryan, now the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Ryan argued that the pay-as-you-go provision wasn't tough enough on spending (it applies only to new entitlement programs, not discretionary programs such as education and defense), and that it shouldn't apply at all to tax cuts.

"We don't have a tax revenue problem in Washington, we have a spending problem in Washington," Ryan said.

Paul Ryan has no problem with voucherizing Medicare and turning it into a program that doesn't keep up with rising health care costs. He has no problem with balancing the budget on the backs of poor seniors. But sunsetting the Bush tax cuts is a matter of grave concern.

Cross-posted at Brew City Brawler.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paul Ryan's budget "the elephant's graveyard of potential attack ads"

The Chief lays out the obstacles to Paul Ryan for president.

Paul Ryan wants to shift risk -- to you

When Paul Ryan talks about empowering individuals and individual choice, reach for your wallets.

Mother Jones lays it out:

The biggest problem with Ryan's plan is that it doesn't actually control health care costs. It simply shifts the burden of paying for them from the public sector to individuals. Instead of the government going bankrupt trying to pay for medical care, it'll be individuals. That's all well and good for the rich, who might be able to pay for their own health care. But people who would have relied on Medicare are going to be out of luck. Medical costs wil rise much faster than the value of the voucher will. Ryan's plan seems to pretend that the problem isn't medical costs—it's just that the government is trying to pay for them. James Kwak is good on this:

The implicit premise [of Ryan's plan] is that we have to screw ordinary people–or at least make them bear a high degree of risk–in order to save the government budget. But what is the government budget? It’s a pile of money that we contribute and that our representatives are supposed to spend on things we can’t buy for ourselves individually. I know that those representatives make mistakes, are borderline corrupt, etc. But Medicare is exactly the kind of program that we want government to provide–a program that shifts risk from individuals to the government, and thereby the country as a whole–and that’s why it’s so popular.

Other countries manage to keep their citizens healthy at a much lower cost than we do. They don't have to dismantle their social insurance programs to do it. Why should we?

Matthew Continetti is sad that Dems are being mean to Paul Ryan

Matthew Continetti writes for the Weekly Reader:

Key fact: Ryan's plan preserves the current entitlement system for everyone over the age of 55. The rest of us will see dramatic changes in the structure of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax code--changes the CBO says will solve the long-term budget problem, in ways that increase individual choice and limit government's scope. If nothing is done, America faces high interest rates, inflation, and economy-crushing tax rates. Is this the future Democrats prefer? After all, they have provided no alternative way to achieve the Roadmap's outcomes.

Key fact: Paul Ryan balances the budget on the backs of poor seniors. Then again, it's questionable whether Paul Ryan balances the budget at all given some of the assumptions in his Road Map to Ruin.

George Will hearts Paul Ryan

He focuses on the most important thing in Paul Ryan's Road Map to Perdition: Tax cuts!
Ryan would eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains, dividends and death. The corporate income tax, the world's second-highest, would be replaced by an 8.5 percent business consumption tax. Because this would be about half the average tax burden that other nations place on corporations, U.S. companies would instantly become more competitive -- and more able and eager to hire.

Medicare and Social Security would be preserved for those currently receiving benefits or becoming eligible in the next 10 years (those 55 and older today). Both programs would be made permanently solvent.

Will, however, fails to note how Paul Ryan will balance the budget on the backs of poor seniors.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Paul Ryan's plan doesn't fix the deficit

Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center takes a look at Paul Ryan's Road Map to Ruin and finds Paul Ryan's plan to fix the deficit is hype:

Word is getting around that CBO has blessed a major budget reform plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) as, in the words of National Review Online, “a roadmap to solvency.” It isn’t true.

... All this confusion is due to a letter written on Jan. 27 from CBO director Doug Elmendorf to Ryan. In that 50-page document, CBO suggests the plan could eliminate the deficit in 50 years and, even more impressively, eliminate the debt by 2080.

But, and this caveat is a whopper, CBO assumed this wonderful outcome would occur only if the revenue portion of Ryan’s plan generated 19 percent of GDP in taxes. And there is not the slightest evidence that would happen. Even though Ryan’s plan has a detailed tax component, his staff asked CBO to ignore it. Rather than estimate the true revenue effects of the Ryan plan, CBO simply assumed, as the lawmaker requested, that it would generate revenues of 19 percent of GDP.

... That’s not all. CBO does not actually analyze many of the specifics of Ryan’s plan. Rather it looked only at what Doug called a “highly stylized” version of Ryan’s tax and Medicaid reforms.

Gleckman notes that Paul Ryan and the CBO are assuming a pretty big can opener:

You know the old joke: Two economists are stranded on a desert island with only canned food to eat. But they have no way to open the containers. What do we do,” asks one. “Assume a can opener,” replies the other.

When it comes to Ryan’s plan, CBO has, in effect, assumed the can opener.

Paul Ryan: Not credible.

Cross-posted at Brew City Brawler.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Paul Ryan, Schiavo Republican

While it's all well and good to talk about Paul Ryan's policy proposal, it's important to always keep in mind that Paul Ryan is deep wingnut. Indeed, he was a Schiavo interventionist -- although he tried to distance himself from that position.

From a February 2007 post at my other, eponymous blog:

Here's what Ryan had to say in the 3/22/05 Cap Times & Wisconsin State Journal:

About 2 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, learned he'd need to fly to Washington, D.C., for an emergency House debate on Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed Friday on a state judge's order.

Ryan cut short an archery lesson with his nephew and gave up grilling dinner for his family to catch the last flight out of Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport.

"Any inconvenience in my life paled in comparison to the issue that was before us," Ryan said Monday. "This is a matter of life or death. There's no higher principle that we're involved in."

"We are simply asserting Terri Schiavo's constitutionally protected right to life," Ryan said. "This is an area where the Constitution delegates the power to Congress. It is certainly in our purview to do what we did."

Ryan said Congress is not inserting itself into a family matter.

"This was not a private bill," he said. "This is giving her access to the federal court system, much like mass murderers get."

Ryan called Schiavo "a healthy, disabled woman without a living will and with a serious dispute between her parents and her husband." She is not terminally ill, he said.

"She is not in a coma, she is healthy and does not need machines to keep her alive, other than to feed her," Ryan said. "To end her life is to starve her to death."
Also in the 3/22/05 Journal Sentinel:

Ryan disputed the notion that Schiavo was being kept alive by extraordinary means.

"She is brain damaged and needs help taking in food and drink," he said. "Her life is precious and her rights and her parents' rights should be respected."

Ryan subsequently tried to distance himself from his wingnutty vote. From a February 2007 column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

To a lesser extent, the Schiavo dispute was perceived by the public as another betrayal of conservative principles. Technically, this was a case about court jurisdiction, which is relevant for Congress to consider.

Nonetheless, it was perceived as the ultimate big-government intrusion into a family affair.

Something to keep in mind as we're called upon to take Paul Ryan and his ideas seriously.

Paul Ryan's plan is all pain, little gain

Jed Lewison:

Although Republicans have not formally embraced Ryan's plan, Ryan is the top House Republican on budget issues and is a rising star in the GOP. Nonetheless, the radical plan -- which effectively calls for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare -- seems to be exactly what the GOP's teabagging base is demanding.

The funny thing is that even though the plan endorses far-right ideas like privatization, it wouldn't bring the budget into balance until 2050 and it wouldn't put the budget on a sustainable path until 2080. In other words, it's almost all pain...and very little gain.

Paul Ryan's choice

Matthew Yglesias revisits Paul Ryan, following write ups by two conservatives (including Ross Douthat):

In essence, there’s a choice facing the country. We can maintain something like the tax rates that have prevailed for the past 40 years, which is what Ryan does, or else we can maintain something like the policy status quo that’s prevailed for the past 40 years, which is what Ryan doesn’t do. I think it’s pretty much inevitable that the future will involve some “give” on both points—higher taxes and changes to Medicare, in other words. What you mostly hear from the right, though, is the idea that we can make taxes lower and basically leave the country in the same place if we just cut down on earmarks. Ryan’s proposal inches toward conceding that that’s not the case, that the only way to keep taxes low is to radically revise not just the nature of Medicare as a program but the underlying principle that there’s a responsibility to ensure that seniors’ medical needs are taken care of in a comprehensive way.

Paul Ryan upset Timothy Geithner hasn't found way to clean up the mess that Paul Ryan created

GOP shills are aflutter at Paul Ryan's grandstanding attacks on Timothy Geithner during Geithner's House testimony. One wishes that Geithner had told Ryan "I'm not blaming Bush for this mess alone, I'm blaming you for passing his budgets, for voting for the deficit-funded Medicare drug benefit and for dozens of other votes that have mired this country in debt even as you absurdly claim the mantle of fiscal rectitude." Still, Geithner's response wasn't bad.

Paul Ryan=Not credible.

Making the GOP own the Ryan plan

House GOP leader John Boehner realizes the Paul Ryan Road Map to Ruin is toxic politically and is trying to distance the GOP from it -- but the Dems won't let him. Good for them.

From Talking Points Memo:

You thought Republicans were going to be able to wiggle away from their historic support for privatizing Medicare and Social Security? Think again.

Leading Democrats aren't letting the GOP put much distance between themselves and a new, long-term budget proposal written by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

"That's their budget plan," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)--chair of the House Democrats' reelection committee--told me in a brief interview. "He's the ranking Republican member on the Budget Committee. That is their so-called roadmap. And it's a roadmap right into the economic ditch that we got ourselves to begin with.... Put it this way. For seniors on Medicare, it's a dead end."

Van Hollen says Republicans should own up to their own ideas, and debate them on the merits, or else stop complaining when Democrats accuse them of being the Party of No.

"These guys got very sensitive about the fact that they had no ideas to put on the table," Van Hollen said. "Well, it turns out they did have some ideas to put on the table. You gotta give Congressman Ryan credit for putting the proposal on the table. Now they should have to live with the consequences of that proposal."

Will it work? Only if the Dems seize the opportunity to act vs. expecting the public to suddenly be swayed or for the GOP to be shamed into coming to the table (check out Boehner's tan -- you think he can feel shame?). If nothing else, the House GOP running away from the plan they were just praising shows these guys can be beat at framing the issues. If the Dems seize advantage.

A good question re: Paul Ryan's free market fundamentalism

From Democurmudgeon:

Ryan gets kudos for being brutally honest? Radical and unpalatable is good? Here's hoping all of this is in short supply in the nations capital. But there's more, where Ryan reduces health care to a mere product . From Ezra Klein's interview:

Klein: The Lasik thing is interesting because it gets to the question of whether health care is a market. When I think of getting Lasik, or buying a television, I can walk out of the store. That’s what gives me as a consumer my power in the market. But if I have chest pains and my doctor prescribes a bypass, how do I walk out of the store?

Ryan: In Milwaukee, the price of bypass ranges from $47,000 to $100,000. Nobody knows where to go for quality, or the prices. So wouldn’t it be good for the prices and quality metrics to be publicized? And let people make a decision. There’ll always be some level of co-pay or deductible or co-insurance that’s going to push people towards the best value.

Then, when you have those chest pains and you’re being rushed in the ambulance, you’ll be rushed to a hospital that’s all along been competing for business and has been improved by that process. You’ll get better health care than you otherwise would. That’s how you improve the system.

Just a thought: If a hospital has to reduce prices to compete, will that reduce the amount of care and quality of treatment? It brings to mind this one free market principle, an old latin warning; "Buyer Beware." That's Ryan's health care gamble for Americans.

Why it's difficult to take Paul Ryan seriously

Before he was calling for balancing the budget on the back of poor seniors, Paul Ryan was denouncing what he called "Crony capitalism." Thomas Frank has visited this topic before (Ryan's less than robust response is here). It comes up again in an interview with Real Clear Politics.

My question: How do you square Ryan's "crony capitalism" with votes such as the deficit financed Medicare drug benefit (which included huge payoffs to pharma), his vote for TARP, his vote for the auto bailout, and that's just for starters?

RCP: You've criticized the administration for "crony capitalism" and its use of TARP funds beyond its initial purpose. What is your and the GOP's stance on "too big to fail"?

RYAN: I think this current bill moving through Financial Services basically solidifies the "too big to fail" system in place. A good idea I've seen is a paper put out by economists Luigi Zingales and Oliver Hart on a better system that's market-based that prevents "too big to fail." So what I'm basically saying is, we need to prevent "too big to fail," not make more firms too big to fail, which is exactly where I think the administration is going. Not only are they basically nationalizing the housing financing sector, but they're basically putting the biggest financial institutions in this country, deeming them "too big to fail," and that will give them access to cheaper credit then their smaller competitors, which in my opinion is Exhibit A in crony capitalism.

Republicans messed this up too. We have to remember that we're also to blame for having practiced crony capitalism. But where we are right now -- it's a systematic expansion of this doctrine. For us, it's easier to fix because we just have to rededicate ourselves to our principles. For Democrats, they would have to repudiate theirs, because crony capitalism sits nicely with their philosophy. You can sort of see an alignment here where big business and big government find a common agreement and that is a very big danger to our free market system. So we need to go back to being pro-market, instead of just pro-business. And there is a difference.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Orszag v Ryan

Back and forth, via National Review Online.

Paul Ryan's plan: "1984 for the next century, but with graphs"

Atlantic business columnist Derek Thompson looks at Paul Ryan's road map to ruin and sees a dystopian parable:

Consider the terrifying Medicare proposal. Ryan would give seniors a voucher that would immediately be worth less than Medicare spending per enrollee. Over the next decade, the buying power of the voucher would grow more slowly than medical spending, but at the same time, the cost of premiums will increase because seniors would wander into the more expensive private market for insurance. Anybody wanna know what rationing look like?

Fiscal hawks like talking about "tightening belts." This goes way beyond tightening by a few belt holes. This plan is more like taking off your belt and tying yourself to a treadmill that has no off-switch. It's an effective weight loss plan, indeed, but good luck convincing the neighbors to sign up for prepaid 12-month plan.

Truly, I think it's a shocking budget, and the kind of thing that no party in power would ever have the cojones to propose. Indeed, Republicans didn't even have the cojones to co-sign health care reform's Medicare cuts. Six months after the Democrats' proposed Medicare savings made Republicans shout bloody murder (literally: Death Panels), Rep. Paul Ryan is now proposing the program's gradual extermination. Like any good dystopian parable, this doesn't deserve to be taken literally. It's about the lesson: Our deficit crisis in an entitlement crisis, and the solution won't be pretty.

Big spender Paul Ryan irked by Obama budget

Paul Ryan, who provided key votes for TARP and for the deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug benefit is shocked to find we have mountains of debt.

Paul Ryan for president?

Reminiscing on the night George W. Bush took out Ann Richards, former Madison mayor and blogger Paul Soglin sees some ominous parallels -- and differences.

The difference between Ryan and the younger Bush is not their policies, but that Ryan is not as inept. Which is what makes him so dangerous.

The Brawler would note he first saw pleas for Paul Ryan to run for the White House back in 2007 ... from a House of Representatives ISP.

Paul Ryan makes the New York Times

Paul Ryan is a regular subject, and periodic contributor, to the outer wingnuttia that is the Wall Street Journal editorial page. But his moment in the sun has earned him a big sloppy kiss from NYT conservative columnist Ross Douthat.

Short version: Ryan is proposing an austere conservative welfare state (though Douthat shortchanges just how austere it would be) that might be the basis of compromise if Dems were willing to sacrifice their principles (more than they already have...) but it probably won't matter anyway because it's not as if Republicans really are going to support it anyway.

Paul Ryan as foil

Following Digby, the Sconz discusses Obama's use of Paul Ryan as foil:

The perception that Obama’s health care plan would covertly starve Medicare to pay for increased Medicaid etc. is one of the most important barriers that Democrats need to address in order to win the health care debate. By so generously giving the floor to a Republican who is overtly anti-Medicare (relatively speaking), Obama can remind voters that it is in fact Democrats who wish to protect the elderly.

Paul Ryan's plan to "balance the budget on the back of poor seniors"

The Economist's "Democracy in America" blog weighs in on Paul Ryan's Road Map to Ruin. If you're 54 or older right now -- the teabagger demo -- good for you. "You get caviar, and everybody younger than you has to pay for it." But if you're not in that demo -- and particularly poor -- the freedom Paul Ryan's plan giving you will make life harder -- and shorter.

So Mr Ryan wants to give 65-year-olds a $7,900 voucher to buy insurance that will, under optimistic assumptions, cost $10,800. What every senior citizen currently gets for free, under Medicare, will instead cost them an extra $2,900 a year, if they have it. For most, that will mean giving up benefits and getting less medical care, or going without insurance entirely. And every year, by design, Mr Ryan's proposal will widen the gap between the voucher and the cost of medical care by 0.7%, even after accounting for the effect his proposal will have on holding down medical costs. Every year, seniors will get worse and worse care. This is what the CBO means when it says:

Under the Roadmap, the value of the voucher would be less than expected Medicare spending per enrollee in 2021, when the voucher program would begin. In addition, Medicare’s current payment rates for providers are lower than those paid by commercial insurers, and the program’s administrative costs are lower than those for individually purchased insurance. Beneficiaries would therefore face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare. Moreover, the value of the voucher would grow significantly more slowly than CBO expects that Medicare spending per enrollee would grow under current law. Beneficiaries would therefore be likely to purchase less comprehensive health plans or plans more heavily managed than traditional Medicare, resulting in some combination of less use of health care services and less use of technologically advanced treatments than under current law. Beneficiaries would also bear the financial risk for the cost of buying insurance policies or the cost of obtaining health care services beyond what would be covered by their insurance.

There are two other really interesting things about Mr Ryan's proposal. First of all, if you hit 65 before 2021, you still get Medicare, with all of its current perks. You're grandfathered in. So if you're 54 or over right now, his bill is a great deal for you: you get caviar, and everybody younger than you has to pay for it. Second, Mr Ryan's proposal necessarily sets a flat nationwide amount for each voucher. Medicare, on the other hand, pays variable reimbursement rates in different parts of the country, based on the fact that medical costs can vary by two times or more between, say, Nassau, New Hampshire and Lincoln, Nebraska. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the average individual premium in Nebraska in 2008 cost $4,392; in New Hampshire, it was $5,247. So if you live in Nebraska, under Mr Ryan's plan, you luck out. If you live in New Hampshire, not so much. One could imagine an interesting conversation between Ben Nelson and Judd Gregg regarding Mr Ryan's Roadmap, if there were ever any chance of it actually being voted on.

Mr Ryan has put forward a serious proposal for shrinking medical-cost inflation and hence shrinking the long-term federal budget deficit. It does so by ending America's provision of first-rate health care to all seniors. Rich seniors will still be able to afford high-quality medical care. Poor seniors won't. They will suffer more and die younger. A different approach to solving America's health-care cost problem might involve letting Medicare use its vast bargaining power to negotiate lower rates with the providers of pharmaceuticals; establishing a commission of experts (MedPAC) to rate the effectiveness of medical procedures, to avoid wasteful incentives in the current fee-for-services medical model; and establishing bundled payments for disease management, to achieve Mayo-Clinic-like efficiencies in care while improving quality. Those are the models proposed in the Democratic bills currently in Congress. But they're really complicated and hard to understand—they make for a bill that's 2,000 pages long. And everybody knows the American people hate that. Mr Ryan proposes to simply slash Medicare spending and balance the budget on the backs of poor seniors. That'll work too.

Paul Ryan and the GOP's rhetorical divide

From Matthew Yglesias (h/t the Chief):

The big driver of spending over the long-run is Medicare. Jackie Calmes and Jeff Zeleny report in The New York Times that Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, has proposed a “blueprint for a balanced budget [that] relies heavily on changes in the system of Medicare benefits for future recipients, the kind of proposal that would surely provoke an outcry among Democrats.” But forget about Democrats. The Obama administration’s health-reform proposals involved some reductions in the scope of future Medicare spending, and that prompted a GOP-led outcry about “death panels” killing America’s grandparents. Under the direction of party chair Michael Steele, the GOP has put a "Senior’s Health Care Bill of Rights” at the center of the party’s effort to retain the allegiance of old people.

Paul Ryan "might as well just claim gremlins will devour the deficit"

No. 1 Oshkosh blogger The Chief lays out what's wrong with Paul Ryan:

I have the same problem with this year's edition of the Ryan budget that I did with last year's: he takes as givens policies that would require legislative miracles in order to become law. Privatize Medicare? That's the GOP equivalent of creating a single-payer health care system. Same thing with privatizing Social Security accounts. Ryan may as well just claim that Gremlins will devour the deficit.

The big news is that the math potentially works. If that's true, then I've been wrong about criticizing Ryan for relying on the retread GOP think tank ideas with out assembling them in a coherent order that can produce results. The big problem still remains, however, that much of Ryan's budget is still composed of retread GOP think tank ideas that are extremely controversial and don't just materialize with the wave of a wand.

What separates Paul Ryan from the rest of the reactionary GOP?

Pundit Nation thinks he knows.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paul Ryan's pretzel logic

A vote for Obama was actually a vote for conservatism. From the February 2009 CPAC confab. A Paul Ryan classic:

Progressive Christian blog: Paul Ryan's budget would hurt the poor

But they will always be with us, right?

However, the upshot is that Ryan would balance the budget by cutting Medicare. Not only that, but he would cut Medicaid.

He would actually privatize those two programs, plus privatize Social Security. However, that is actually besides the point. Ryan's proposal would issue Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries a health insurance voucher. However, that voucher's value would grow by the average of the Consumer Price Index and the medical component of the CPI. The CPI is the U.S.' primary measure of inflation. The CPI-medical measures medical and health insurance costs; in general, healthcare costs have been growing about 2% faster than GDP, which has itself been growing a bit faster than inflation. Thus, in the long run, Ryan would balance the budget by cutting Medicare. And Medicaid.

In the absence of other measures in the health reform bills, the private insurance companies would most likely respond by increasing co-pays and deductibles. If Medicare and Medicaid were to remain government programs, this is also the most likely thing they would do. In contrast, the Democratic health reform proposals would have set up the infrastructure for these programs to ration services by their comparative effectiveness and would not have cut the benefits promised to beneficiaries in the statutes. Ryan condemned comparative effectiveness research, and in fact I believe his anti-budget would not implement such research. Thus, the foremost avenue to contain costs will be to increase cost-sharing - which will put many effective treatments out of the reach of low- and moderate-income people.

"Good conservative boilerplate ... but it turns out that's all it is"

It's vaguely discomfiting to see people hail Paul Ryan for introducing an unworkable plan to "fix" the U.S. health care and retirement systems. So it's nice to see Kevin Drum cut to the chase:

It's good conservative boilerplate.

But it turns out that's all it is. Those things themselves don't really save any money. The real action comes from a collection of arbitrary spending limits, but these limits don't offer any clues about how we're going to meet them. There's a freeze on nonsecurity discretionary spending from 2010-2019 — but saying you're going to freeze spending is easy. The hard part is figuring out what to cut. There's also a limit to the growth of Medicare payments — but saying you're going to limit growth is easy. The hard part is figuring out how to limit growth and deciding what you're going to cut to meet your caps. Medicaid is treated the same way: Ryan's plan simply sets a limit on growth rates without saying how those limits will be met.

In fairness, there are a few specifics. The eligibility age for Medicare would rise gradually to about age 70. Social Security payments would be reduced. All the money in the stimulus bill that hasn't been spent yet would be eliminated.

But those are nits. For the vast bulk of the savings, Ryan simply declares that they'll happen. His bill would cap growth rates, and that's that. Whatever happens, happens — and he carefully avoids actually saying what would happen. That's not serious, and it doesn't deserve praise.

Paul Ryan wants to ration health care and has weird ideas about the health care market

Ezra Klein has an interesting conversation with Paul Ryan, though, frankly he gives Ryan too much credit (proposing a draconian bi;l that is politically unfeasible but gets you great headlines because most people don't actually know what's in it is not exactly a profile in courage).

Two points:

Paul Ryan comes right out and says he wants to ration health care -- a point that
Charlie Sykes is unlikely to raise on his show.

Paul also has weird ideas about the health care market:

Ryan: So what I’m saying is that rather than having government ration care to manage decline, let’s take those market signals that work in every sector of the economy to reduce cost and improve competition. I got Lasik in 2000. That’s a cash surgery. It cost me $2,000 an eye. Since then, it’s been revolutionized three times and now costs $800 an eye. This sector isn’t immune from free-market principles.

Klein: The Lasik thing is interesting because it gets to the question of whether health care is a market. When I think of getting Lasik, or buying a television, I can walk out of the store. That’s what gives me as a consumer my power in the market. But if I have chest pains and my doctor prescribes a bypass, how do I walk out of the store?

Ryan: In Milwaukee, the price of bypass ranges from $47,000 to $100,000. Nobody knows where to go for quality, or the prices. So wouldn’t it be good for the prices and quality metrics to be publicized? And let people make a decision. There’ll always be some level of co-pay or deductible or co-insurance that’s going to push people towards the best value. Then, when you have those chest pains and you’re being rushed in the ambulance, you’ll be rushed to a hospital that’s all along been competing for business and has been improved by that process. You’ll get better health care than you otherwise would. That’s how you improve the system.

Klein: You’re arguing that the benefits of competition accrue, and so even if you don’t choose at the moment of emergency, there’s still an effect from a higher-functioning market.

Ryan: Absolutely. I don’t know anything about cars. I look at Consumer Reports and their ratings. What matters is that someone who knows about cars went and figured this out. The car company is competing for the really tough customer who goes under the hood. I’m not saying every American has to be that consumer. But enough people have to so the rest of us can benefit.

"I have chest pains!"

"I'll take you to Joe's!"

"Nah, take me to Bob's, Joe's charges too much and skimps on the anaesthesia!"

I can't vouch for the spread in heart bypass costs cited by Ryan, but safe to say not all bypasses are the same nor are all patients the same whereas a Corolla of a Corolla wherever you buy it. Moreover, there is a severe limit on the accrual of the benefits of competition given that health care is a highly localized market (unless you're a medical tourist). And given that there's a limited number of providers in any geography, they will most likely mysteriously settle on a price that affords them a healthy profit -- not that there's collusion, per se, it just works out that way. Klein is a smart guy, he should have shredded Ryan on that point.

Paul Ryan decides it's safe to privatize Social Security again

Back in April 2009, not long after he voted for one of the biggest intrusions of the federal government into the private economy ever to bail out his banker buddies (that'd be TARP), Paul Ryan submitted a "road map" that departed from his previous one in that it did not advocate privatizing Social Security.
But apparently Ryan now feels we've had enough distance from the second major Wall Street crash in a decade to advocate putting people's retirement in the hands of brokers.

Paul Ryan, the candidate for the "I got mine" generation

Matthew Yglesias highlights an interesting aspect of Paul Ryan's plan to shred the US safety net: it won't touch the key voting block of folks 55 years or older.
Thus when you look at Jeb Hensarling’s proposal for drastic cuts in Social Security benefits or Paul Ryan’s plan to pair drastic Social Security cuts with drastic Medicare cuts you’ll see that there’s a trick—none of it applies to anyone who’s 55 or older today. The basic idea is to take the GOP old white people base and insulate them from cuts. The under 55 crowd will still have to pay the taxes to finance their benefits, but we ourselves won’t get the benefits.

As you’ll recall from the health reform debate, somewhat paradoxically it’s the current beneficiaries of single-payer government-provided health insurance who evince the most opposition to universal health care. Basically, they’ve got theirs and don’t care about extending the benefits of universal health care to younger people. Ryan and Hensarling are proposing to institutionalize this version of the intergenerational bargain—culturally conservative oldsters still get paid, but the welfare state they enjoy and support will be phased out for Generations X and Y.

Based on my observation, 55+ seems to be the sweet spot of the teabagger demo.

Paul Ryan wants to ration health care

Matthew Yglesias takes a look at Paul Ryan's Road Map to a Ditch and finds it wanting ... if not repulsive to most Americans:

Rather than have the government pay for your health care, the government will give you a voucher with which to buy private insurance. Initially, the voucher will be worth the same amount as the average cost of providing health care to people. But the insurance company will have higher administrative costs than Medicare, and it will have profit margins and such that Medicare doesn’t have, and it will pay more for services than Medicare does. So on day one you’ll lose your Medicare coverage and instead get a voucher that costs the government the same amount, but buys you much less in the way of health care services.

The way the government saves money over the long run, however, is that over time the voucher won’t keep up with the cost of health care. As the CBO explains in its analysis (PDF) of Ryan’s outline, the voucher will be “indexed to grow at a rate halfway between the general inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U), and the rate of price inflation for medical care, as measured by the consumer price index for medical care (CPI-M).” That means the value of the voucher “would increase at an average annual rate of 2.7 percent for the next 75 years, in comparison with the average annual growth rate of nearly 5 percent that CBO expects for per capita national spending for health care under current law.”

In other words, Ryan is proposing to ration care for seniors. He’ll take the baseline level of per capita medical costs for seniors in 2020 and then draw a curve representing 2.7 percent annual growth and say that any costs above that won’t be covered. If grandma’s got a bunch of money, then she can spend her money. If not, then the plug is pulled.

As Yglesias also notes, the plan wouldn't kick in until 2021, "which helps Ryan avoid needing to think about implementation details."