Paul Ryan, a new Republican minus the “new”

by Russell's Rants

Originally published August 31, 2012

Paul Ryan’s speech to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night was so replete with factual errors that it lead Gawker to catalog 7 inarguably true things that he said, including this shocker,

“I live on the same block where I grew up.”

Gawker fact-checked this as “true” because, in fact, “Ryan still lives on the same block where he grew up.”

80b56a6a3398aa28ba52303e2f9b61aaThe rest of his speech told so many falsehoods about President Obama (from Medicare to the Debt Commission to a GM plant closure) that media outlets could do little more than wonder if politicians think they can get away with anything when financed by a multi-million dollar advertising budget to repeat their misrepresentations. Romney’s chief pollster apparently thinks they can, saying,

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

What was even more striking about the substance, such as it was, of Ryan’s convention speech was his rhetorical appropriation – really misappropriation – of traditionally Democratic themes concerning the social safety net. Republicans voted against Medicare, tried to repeal it and have run against it for years. Fast-forward to Ryan’s election-year embrace of Medicare that makes him sound like a new-fangled Republican – a New Republican who wants to “honor,” “protect and strengthen” Medicare into the future – a New Republican who, like that New Democrat, Bill Clinton, melds the differences between the parties and takes for himself the most popular programs of his opponents which his party had previously taken heat in opposing. For President Clinton, his New Democrat bona fides came from his embrace of the death penalty and Welfare reform. These were popular political positions that neutered decades’ worth of attacks by Republicans on crime and social responsibility.

The catch for Ryan is that his rhetoric on the social safety net is hollow because he is just saying the opposite of what he actually proposes to do without any actual shift in his proposed policies.

Here was Ryan, who wants to turn Medicare into a premium-support, voucher program that will not keep up with the cost of healthcare insurance, pretending to be the savior of the program. (It is estimated that Ryan’s 2011 voucher plan would leave a typical 65 year-old more than $12,000 short per year in affording his or her medical insurance premiums, while his 2012 plan is too vague to score.) And he does so while trying to cast Obama as the one raiding Medicare of $716 billion – when, in fact, Obama’s Affordable Care Act does what Republicans always say they want to do, which is bend the cost-curve for medical spending downward while reigning in waste, fraud and abuse. The Affordable Care Act takes not a dime from future beneficiaries, but eliminates the wasteful subsidy to insurance companies under the far-too-expensive Medical Advantage program. And the Act benefits from a smart trade-off with medical providers that lowers their reimbursement rates in exchange for additional patients to treat. The savings realized are mostly plowed right back into Medicare, to close the so-called Medicare prescription doughnut hole and providing more preventive care for seniors.

The irony becomes even more ridiculous when you realize that Ryan’s own budget “roadmap” uses the same baseline for Medicare as does the Obama budget, minus the savings and reinvestment of the $716 billion – meaning that it is really Ryan, not Obama, who proposes raiding the trust fund so he can give Mitt Romney a tax cut.

What we’re left with is New Republican, poll-tested talking points with Old Republican positions. I suppose that’s as good a definition as any of the Tea Party.