Tag Archives: Paul Ryan

Three Ways Picking Paul Ryan Helps Mitt Romney and the GOP


I wanted to wait a few days before commenting on this story, especially since it was wall-to-wall coverage most of the weekend.  There is a lot to digest with this pick.  The golden boy from Wisconsin is loved by conservatives and hated by liberals.  He’s a wonk with sex appeal (how often do you get to say that), and he is not a bad speaker either.   Most of the coverage has focused on the central question: what is going through Mitt Romney’s mind?  While I don’t know the details of Mitt’s vetting process, I do have three reasons why this pick is important for the Romney campaign:

1) Ryan excites the Republican chattering class:  The intellectual wing of the GOP likes Paul Ryan.  I mean they really like Paul Ryan.  If the Weekly Standard was a high school, all the writers would have pictures of Paul Ryan inside their lockers.  I watched Fox News for part of the morning after Ryan was pick and the atmosphere was electrifying.  Every commentator called this pick a “game changer” (of course that may not have good connotations).  While the writers at National Review plan to vote for Mitt Romney without this pick, having them excited will make the conservative base excited.  Fox News and conservative media have a lot power and the base does listen to them.  Elites have the power to persuade (to borrow a phrase used for presidents).  By picking Ryan, Romney is going for a top-down persuasion strategy through conservative media.

2) This Pick Separates Him from W.:  George W. Bush has not been mentioned much this election.  Currently, he is like Voldemort on the right (no one dare speak his name) and Romney does not want to be compared to Bush.  This is especially true on the deficit.  There is a fear in the minds of some on the right that Mitt will promise deficit reduction, but, in the end, he will spend like drunken sailor once he gets into office.  Republicans already have a trust deficit with Romney over his healthcare plan looking exactly (in fact the model for) President Obama’s plan.  By putting a man with the plan on the ticket, Mitt Romney shows that he really cares about the deficit and will not repeat the Bush years.

3) No Sarah Palin PTSD:  When Barry Goldwater (a conservative ideologue) lost the 1964 presidential race to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide, the GOP made a collective vow not to pick another candidate that was too far to right.  It could be argued that Ronald Reagan was the byproduct of that campaign 15 years later, but there is certainly some disagreement I have on that point.  As time passed, Goldwater’s legacy loomed pretty large over the Republican Party, turning to legend.  I think a similar argument can be made about Sarah Palin and the vice presidency.  To some Republicans, Sarah Palin was a risky choice as John McCain’s running mate and that risk partially caused his downfall in 2008.  This time around, Republicans wanted Mitt Romney to play it safe and pick someone who was plain (like a Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman).  Picking Paul Ryan as VP gets the GOP past another Goldwatereque legacy with Sarah Palin.  Romney shows the Republican Party that it should not be afraid of risky vice presidential picks, which is easier to do now than forty-years from now.

These are probably not the reasons Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, but they are affects of choosing Ryan.  Certainly this changes the tone of race.  It will take until election day to decide whether it changed the game in Romney’s favor or not.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Republicans

Racism and the Tea Party’s Selective Opposition to Government

By Luke Brinker

Conventional wisdom holds that the Tea Party arose in opposition to the bailouts and economic stimulus programs enacted under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Motivated by a principled opposition to “big government,” Tea Party protesters took on establishment politicians of both parties, supporting candidates committed to lower spending, minimal government intervention, and decreased taxes.

While Tea Party supporters still cling to this narrative, it’s been obvious for some time now that it doesn’t withstand scrutiny. In April 2010, CBS and the New York Times conducted a poll finding that Tea Party respondents were just as likely as non-supporters of the Tea Party to argue that Social Security and Medicare – paragons of big government – were worth the cost. “Small government” sounds blissful in theory, but here’s how Tea Partyers deal with its practical implications:

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

More recently, Harvard government professors Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson interviewed Tea Party sympathizers across the country. Skocpol and Williamson’s findings corroborated the results of the CBS-Times poll:

In our interviews and group discussions, however, we found Tea Party members to be quite inconsistent about government. At the abstract level, all of them decry big government, out-of- control public spending and ballooning deficits. But when governmental specifics come into view, it’s a different story. Tea Partiers aren’t opposed to all kinds of regulation or big tax-supported spending. Rank-and-file Tea Party participants evaluate regulations and spending very differently, depending on who or what is regulated, and whether those who benefit from various kinds of public spending are considered hard workers or freeloaders.

The current Tea Party distinction between freeloaders and hardworking taxpayers has undertones that distinguish it from a simple reiteration of the long-standing American creed. In Tea Party eyes, undeserving people aren’t defined simply by a tenuous attachment to the labor market (USURTOT) or receipt of unearned government handouts. Worthiness is a cultural category, closely tied to certain racially and ethnically tinged assumptions about American society in the early 21st century. Tea Party resistance to giving more to people deemed undeserving is more than just an argument about taxes and spending. It’s a heartfelt cry about where they fear their country may be headed.

Drawing distinctions between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor is nothing new. (The English Poor Law of 1601 enshrined such distinctions in statute.) For Tea Partyers, “undeserving” usually means “racial minorities.” In 2010, Newsweek carried a story on Tea Party participants’ appalling views of African Americans:

So a new poll by researchers at the University of Washington caught my eye. The findings are sure to fan the flames further. “People who approve of the Tea Party, more than those who don’t approve, have more racist attitudes,” says Christopher Parker, a University of Washington professor who directed the survey. “And not only that, but more homophobic and xenophobic attitudes.” For instance, respondents were asked whether they agreed with various characterizations of different racial groups. Only 35 percent of those who strongly approve of the tea party agreed that blacks are hardworking, compared with 55 percent of those who strongly disapprove of the tea party. On whether blacks were intelligent, 45 percent of the tea-party supporters agreed, compared with 59 percent of the tea-party opponents. And on the issue of whether blacks were trustworthy, 41 percent of the tea-party supporters agreed, compared with 57 percent of the tea-party opponents.

Of course, Tea Partyers don’t deny racism. Far from it: a 2010 survey by Public Religion Research found that while 44 percent of Americans overall saw “discrimination against whites as being just as big as bigotry aimed at blacks and other minorities,” 61 percent of Tea Partyers subscribed to that view.

While rank-and-file Tea Party supporters tend to be older, white, socially conservative Americans with outdated views on race, this is not to say that establishment figures who appropriate Tea Party rhetoric about “small government” are all motivated by racial bias. House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, for instance, put forth a plan to end Medicare as a public program and replace it with a voucher system for private insurance within 10 years. As flawed as the plan was, it was certainly scaled-back government in action. How did rank-and-file Tea Partyers respond? Seventy percent of them opposed the Ryan plan.

It would be unfair to assert that the Tea Party is entirely driven by racial bigotry. Partisanship explains much of the Tea Party’s reflexive opposition to President Obama. In an August op-ed for the New York Times, Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell and Harvard public policy professor Robert Putnam noted that Republican affiliation was the “strongest predictor” of Tea Party participation. Tea Partyers oppose “Obamacare,” even though it’s modeled on a plan drawn up by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the 1990s; rail against the president’s cap-and-trade proposal on climate change, even though John McCain and Sarah Palin supported cap-and-trade as a conservative, market-based approach in 2008; and denounce the “Buffett rule” to end government preference for capital gains-based income as socialism, even though conservative saint Ronald Reagan raised the capital gains tax to 28 percent, which was then the top income tax rate. (The capital gains rate is now 15 percent.) There’s nothing wild-eyed about these Obama proposals, but because a Democrat is proposing them, the Tea Party screams.

In short, the Tea Party favors smaller government except when it disadvantages them and supports market-based health reform and climate change solutions, except when they’re endorsed by Nobama. In fact, government is okay as long as it doesn’t waste too many resources trying to help lazy blacks. And to think that critics labeled Occupy Wall Street incoherent and unfocused.


Filed under tea party

Politifact’s Shaky Command of Facts

By Luke Brinker

The controversy surrounding Politifact’s ridiculous selection for its “Lie of the Year” illuminates the intellectual bankruptcy of the mainstream media’s cult of balance.

According to Politifact’s high priests of truth, Democratic claims that Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan would “end Medicare as we know it” are egregious distortions of reality. But under the Ryan plan, Medicare would cease to exist as a public insurance program in 2022. Given that Medicare has been a single-payer program since its creation in 1965, any objective observer would conclude that such a proposal would indeed end Medicare “as we know it.” Alas, while Politifact promotes itself as a defender of plain facts, regardless of partisanship or ideology, it betrays its allegiance to Peter G. Peterson Foundation-style deficit hawkery, as Jonathan Chait notes:

oes the Republican plan indeed end Medicare? I would argue yes. But it’s obviously a question of interpretation, not fact. And the whole problem with Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” is that it doesn’t grasp this distinction. Politifact doesn’t even seem to understand the criteria for judging whether a claim is a question of opinion or a question of fact, let alone whether it is true. The item explaining this year’s choice largely consists of irrelevant filler. For instance, Politifact quotes a worried budget scold:

“In terms of creating a national conversation about fiscal reform, the last thing we need is demagoguing attacks against people who have put forward serious policy proposals,” said Jason Peuquet, a policy analyst with the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It’s very worrying.”

Yes, if your agenda is to encourage politicians to propose deficit reduction, then you’ll be worried about any criticism of any deficit reduction proposal, accurate or otherwise. So what? (Matthew Yglesias further parses Politifact’s incredibly weak explanation.)

Of course, deficit alarmists are Very Serious People committed to the future of the republic, and we aren’t supposed to point out that their social program-slashing agenda is, at its core, an ideological proposition. The problem is that the Ryan plan would do nothing to rein in health costs, which drive long-term deficits. As Politifact asserts, something called “Medicare” would still exist under the Ryan plan. However, it wouldn’t be Medicare as it’s existed for nearly half a century and would instead give seniors vouchers with which to purchase private health insurance plans. Health care expert and physician Ezekiel Emanuel, who knows a thing or two about these issues, points out that the Ryan plan shifts costs, but doesn’t reduce them:

Premium support is classic cost shifting, rather than cost cutting. Unless growth in health care costs is low, Medicare beneficiaries will just have to pick up the difference between the voucher’s value and the cost of the health insurance plan they purchase. In fact, the original Ryan plan would have increased out-of-pocket costs for older people by more than $6,000 in 2022. And we can’t depend on competition to bring costs down. Competition among insurance companies in general has not lowered them — in fact, from 1970 through 2009, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at a slower rate than that of private health insurance.

Many premium support plans contain a spending cap meant to check the growth of Medicare. But whether this works depends upon a very technical — but essential — point: How fast will the amount of the premium support grow? Will it grow with inflation? With gross domestic product? With overall health care spending? When they say the “devil is in the details” this is what they mean. Under the Rivlin-Domenici plan, the value of the voucher would be capped at the rate of overall economic growth plus one percentage point — less than health care inflation has historically been. The Wyden-Ryan plan replaces the voucher cap with an overall cap on Medicare spending using the same target. Excess spending would prompt cuts to doctors and other providers, or an increase in payments by wealthier Medicare beneficiaries.

Moreover, as Paul Krugman demonstrates, Medicare is far superior to private insurance when it comes to reining in costs:

The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn’t Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it’s true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we’ll be forcing them to get private insurance — if they can — that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare.

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. Ironically, they seem to be Politifact’s biggest enemy today.

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The Ryan-Wyden Medicare Proposal and Do Something Syndrome

By Luke Brinker

Yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, teamed up with Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, to propose what Ezra Klein correctly describes as “Obamacare” for seniors, with a public option. (While I lauded aspects of the Affordable Care Act yesterday, I’d much prefer a single-payer option, which, as I’ll discuss below, is the optimal solution.) Although the Medicare eligibility age is 65, their plan would only apply to Americans 55 and younger once they reached the eligibility age. Under the proposal, seniors would have the choice of either traditional Medicare or a private health insurance plan. Those who opted for a private plan would receive a government subsidy, known as premium support, to help pay insurance costs.

The coming together of Ryan, a conservative hero, and Wyden, a Left Coast Democrat, is supposed to be one of those bipartisan feel-good moments when we all put aside “petty partisanship” and get serious about the grave problems facing our country. However, the Ryan-Wyden plan will neither reduce health care costs (which are driving the long-term budget deficit) nor be of any help to seniors. It’s a classic example of Do Something Syndrome. Health care costs are rapidly increasing and the current trajectory of cost growth is unsustainable. Anything must be an improvement on the status quo, right?

Via Taylor Marsh, here’s what the Washington Post reported on the plan:

Ryan and Wyden acknowledged that their plan might not bring in more savings than under the current law. But they said that by forcing private insurers to bid to provide Medicare coverage and encouraging beneficiaries to choose the plan with the lowest costs, the measure could drive costs down lower than the price controls that the current law would impose on the private sector. If costs continued to rise nonetheless, beneficiaries would not have to bear the burden, the lawmakers said; Congress would be required to take further action.

If Ryan-Wyden won’t reduce costs, as they concede it might not, it’s not clear what purpose their proposal serves other than lining the pocket of insurance companies at taxpayers’ expense. And the stubborn reality is that moving more seniors to private health care will increase health care spending, as Dean Baker argues:

The NYT neglected to mention that the Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly found that adopting plans providing more choice within Medicare, like the one by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Wyden touted in this article, raise rather than lower the cost of providing care. The basic problem is that private insurers are very good at cherry picking patients — better than government bureaucrats in preventing cherry picking. This means that private insurers will find ways to get patients who cost them less than the average payment, or less than the average risk-adjusted payment, for Medicare beneficiaries.

This is the reason that Medicare Advantage and its precedessor in the 90s, Medicare Plus Choice, raised the cost of Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office has also found that private insurers are less effective in controlling costs, which is why they projected that Representative Ryan’s proposal for privatizing Medicare would increase the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies by $34 trillion over the program’s 75-year planning period. 

Economist Robert Reich bolsters the case for Medicare:

So what’s the answer? For starters, allow anyone at any age to join Medicare. Medicare’s administrative costs are in the range of 3 percent. That’s well below the 5 to 10 percent costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It’s even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25 to 27 percent of premiums). And it’s way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It’s even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

And it turns out that Medicare recipients are more satisfied with their health insurance than private insurance consumers:

It’s no wonder those Tea Partiers want politicians to keep their gub’mint hands off Medicare.


Filed under health care, health policy

The Wonk’s Dream Candidate?

The Republican braintrust, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is thinking about running for a shot to live on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Steven Hayes of the Weekly Standard says this is his motivation:

Ryan has been talking to friends and advisers about a run since last spring. Those familiar with his thinking say that he expected that Indiana governor Mitch Daniels would run. Hours before Daniels released a letter he’d sent to supporters informing them of his decision not to run, he called Ryan to give him a heads up. That phone call profoundly changed Ryan’s thinking.

One Ryan confidante used an analogy to make the point. Ryan sees running for president like taking a swan dive off a cliff. In the early stages of the race, when he started getting calls urging him to run, Ryan began walking away from the cliff at a brisk pace. Then, when Daniels announced that he was passing on a bid, Ryan stopped in place and turned around. In the weeks since, he’s slowly made his way back to the cliff and he’s now peering over the side trying to decide if he makes the leap.

I think the idea of Paul Ryan running for president excites the David Brooks types in the GOP more than anyone else.  Let’s face it, none of the current crop of candidates are exactly William F. Buckley out there.  It’s evident by that those paragraphs that Ryan is just replacing the Mitch Daniels fetish they all had before.

Even if Ryan does run, he will tremendous obstacles.  First, his budget that was passed by the House has some pretty radical reforms, such as making Medicare and voucher program, that will be a very easy target for liberals to attack.  Second, Ryan is a good speaker, but not a great one.  Beyond his dreamy eyes and Eddie Munster face, he is too policy-oriented for the general public.  Finally, beyond New Hampshire, the land of fiscal conservatives, I have no idea what possible route he could take to win the nomination.  Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann both have Iowa and the South covered.  Plus, Ryan needs some serious cash quickly.

Just one last note, it has been over 100 years (James Garfield was the last one) since a House member has won the nomination.  Most of this is just a pipe dream.  So, I wouldn’t be making your “Ryan for President” posters just yet.

Do you Paul Ryan can win the nomination?

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Filed under GOP, Paul Ryan, politics, presidents