The Republican plan to convert Medicare into a voucher program has hit some rough water. Presidential candidates are distancing themselves from the proposal, while a New York special election that should have been an easy victory has become competitive due to the Medicare issue.
Most voters--53 percent--now say that despite their budget-cutting mood, they do not want to see any cuts to Medicare benefits, even if it would help shrink deficits and the national debt, The Hill's Julian Pecquet and Bob Cusack report. Republicans appeared united on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which included a proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, with only four GOP congressmen voting against it. But Republican leaders have since walked back their support of the measure, now saying it's a goal but not likely to be passed any time soon. Dick Morris even proposed holding a vote so Republican freshmen could repudiate the Ryan overhaul--"a sign of increasing panic," the Hill says.
Ryan will give a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago Monday that will rework Republicans' Medicare pitch to voters, Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin writes. Ryan outlines the new message in a op-ed in the Chicago Tribune decrying "class warfare" demagoguery on the issue. The debate, Ryan says, has been "too often restricted to 'shared sacrifice.' This sets up a debate where we are really just arguing over whom to hurt and how best to manage the decline of our nation. ... A better name for this approach is 'shared scarcity,'" the congressman writes.
The president says that only the richest people in America would be affected by his plan. Class warfare may or may not be clever politics, but it is terrible economics. Redistributing wealth never creates more of it, and sowing class envy makes America weaker, not stronger. Playing one group against another only distracts us from the true sources of inequity in this country--corporate welfare that enriches the powerful and empty promises that betray the powerless.
Perhaps testing out a new catchphrase to capture this new theme, Ryan told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday that Obama has been playing with "envy economics."
But even if Republicans face stark poll numbers on the issue, their political response seems to go back and forth. On Sunday, brand-new presidential candidate Newt Gingrich attacked Ryan's plan as "radical" and "right-wing social engineering." But by Monday, he was walking back those comments, the Weekly Standard's John McCormack reports. Gingrich's spokesman insists, "There is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich. ... Newt would fully support Ryan if it were not compulsory. We need to design a better system that people will voluntarily move to. That is a major difference in design but not substance."