Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cracks in GOP Phalanx Appear on Ryan Medicare Couponization

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) just might start feeling like a bridesmaid as GOP heavy hitters start talking about not being wedded to his 2012 Budget proposal. Ryan, after all, is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and the Budget is his thing. After initial hoopla from folks who should know better, some folks who did know better took a look at Ryan's ramblings, and pronounced them to be "Ludicrous and Cruel."

Then came polling that showed Ryan's budget was about as popular as a banjo hitter coming to bat with the bases loaded and the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth. Exactly that popular, in fact, as 78% opposed cutting Medicare to balance the budget, and 84% opposed canning Medicare in favor of a voucher program. In big league baseball, a .200 batting average, or 20%, is considered the demarcation of offensive futility. Hall of Famer George Brett popularized the "Mendoza Line," named for a particularly dreadful hitter.

As the Ryan plan's popularity scuffled around the Mendoza Line, a festive atmosphere engulfed GOP town hall meetings across America during Congress' spring break. Camera phones posted plenty of You Tube moments with Republican pols hemming and hawing in front of jeering crowds.

Just about that time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) became the first groom to discreetly back a step or two away from the altar.

"It's Paul (Ryan)'s idea. Now other people have other ideas," Boehner mumbled and stumbled. "I'm not wedded to one single idea." Boehner had earlier stated that he "fully supports Paul Ryan's budget." This of course, was before the bill flopped, and Boehner flipped.

Apparently 84% of Americans had a great many ideas about Ryan's plans. Ryan's idea would dismantle Medicare, hand its money to insurance company cronies, and pawn off seniors with coupons that wouldn't cover a third of their health care costs, while giving the richest Americans another 10% tax break.

The Ryan plan would, for people presently under 55, replace Medicare, which pays doctors for services, with vouchers the future seniors would use toward the purchase of private insurance. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office calculated by 2030, Ryan's coupons wouldn't cover a third of what seniors would need to shell out for premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses.

GOP presidential aspirant-in-waiting Michele Bachmann (R-MN) then became a bride sidling a step or two away from the altar. "One position that I'm concerned about is shifting the cost burden to senior citizens," she told Fox News Sunday. She explained her vote for the Ryan budget with a not very graceful, "They are not pieces of legislation. They are aspirational documents."

The Ryan proposal was a bill, Michele, and a bill is a piece of legislation. Please cue that tape from "Schoolhouse Rock." Now, the Cub Scout's creed is an aspirational document. Unless you're President Barack Obama, for whom the Nobel Peace Prize was an aspirational document. But as far as aspirational documents go, most folks should start small and work their way up.

Some uncharitably consider Michele Bachmann as just a pretty face, if you like that nipped, tucked, botoxed faux-thirty Voldemort-with-a-nose look.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was smart enough to feign a headache and avoided going to the church altogether. She announced she wouldn't support the Ryan Couponization Budget weeks ago.

Then, former New York Lt. Gov.Betsy McCaughey, the Medicare-buster and anti-health care activist riding point for Ryan, was denounced by the authors of studies McCaughey touted as proving how Ryan's scheme guaranteed sunshine and roses for all. McCaughey had written editorials in several prominent periodicals pushing elder-genocide as a good thing, but the authors of studies she cited begged to disagree.

McCaughey also denegrated the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office as "deceptive." She found exception to findings that seniors would end up having to sell all their earthly belongings and empty their bank accounts before dying horribly and miserably while loved ones looked on helplessly in anguish because the Ryan coupons would only cover 68% of costs. "It's time for Congress to find a new source of honest, independant research" she said. She didn't mention Fox News by name.

Even among Republicans, trashing the Congressional Budget Office is a bit unseemly. At this rate, Ryan might find himself standing around the altar wondering where everyone was. Ryan should start worrying whether fellow Republicans might start blaming President Obama for tricking them into voting for the Ryan bill just make them look bad.

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