Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, architect of a Medicare overhaul aimed at slashing the cost of the popular entitlement program by reducing the government's open-ended commitment to seniors, accused Obama of "mis-describing" his proposal and implored the president to ease up on the "demagoguery."
In reply, Obama said he was no stranger to cartoonish depictions, reeling off a list of conservatives' favorite attack points: "I'm the death panel-supporting, socialist, may-not-have-been-born-here president," Obama said, according to people familiar with his remarks.
No word on whether Obama's sentence ended with the words, "so quit whining," but it should've. In fact, it was fearmongering over Medicare that was the Republican strategy to whip up opposition to healthcare reform. The difference between the GOP's take then and Democrats' take now is that the latter is much, much more accurate.
And, of course, this -- in part -- explains Republicans' problem at the moment. Medicare is a singlepayer program and people like singlepayer -- even if they aren't extremely clear on what the term actually means. And Paul Ryan's voucher system is not singlepayer. While Republicans argue that they have no plan to do away with the program, this is exactly what they propose; take Medicare, scrap it, and replace it with something entirely different that we'll all call "Medicare." To say this isn't doing away with the program is deeply, deeply dishonest.
Allow me to illustrate. Let's say you have a car and I want to take it. I propose replacing your car with a tricycle. But you can't complain that I've taken your car, because I've slapped a sticker on the trike that says "your car." You still have a "car," I argue, it's just that I've made some minor tweaks to it. You should thank me. Your "car" has just gotten a lot less expensive. See, what you call it is much more important than what it actually is. By the GOP's argument, your car hasn't been replaced, because the trike is now called "your car" -- just as Medicare wouldn't be replaced by a radically different program called "Medicare."
When your sales pitch involves such logical gymnastics, you've got trouble.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, a majority... don't think the GOP has cooperated enough with President Barack Obama and, for the first time since they won back control of the House last November, the number of Americans who say that Republican control of the chamber is good for the country has dropped below the 50 percent mark.
The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal...
"Half of those we questioned say that the country would be worse off under the GOP Medicare proposals and 56 percent think that GOP plan would be bad for the elderly," the report quotes CNN Polling Director Keating Holland as saying. "Opposition is highest among senior citizens, at 74 percent, suggesting that seniors are most worried about changes to Medicare even if those changes are presented as ones that would not affect existing Medicare recipients."
That last is interesting, because Ryan's plan explicitly exempts that group of people. People on Medicare today would never have to deal with the tricycle. But Republicans have made the mistake of using themselves as a behavioral model -- one of their more common miscalculations. Where Ryan expected the elderly to embrace the "I've got mine, screw you" attitude a disciple of Ayn Rand would adopt, it turned out that Americans actually give a crap about their kids and their grandkids.
No wonder Republicans aren't big fans of empathy; it screws up all their favorite ideas. If Republicans want to blame someone for their situation right now, they shouldn't blame Democrats for laying out the plain facts. They should blame themselves for overestimating the selfishness and gullibility of the American people.
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