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Posted at 5:44 PM ET, 01/21/2011

Did Republicans just take ownership of Ryan's Roadmap?

By Ezra Klein

ryanadntheroad.JPGI doubt Paul Ryan will suffer much from being tapped to give the GOP's response to the State of the Union: He's an easy, affable speaker, and even if the format leaves him looking a little wooden, his control of the House budget process and odd role as the only House Republican who seems comfortable with numbers will give him plenty of opportunities to redeem himself going forward. The downside risk of giving a mediocre speech is overstated, at least in his case, while the upside risk of giving a good speech is pretty significant: He cements his position as the bright young thing of Washington's Republican establishment.

But I think the GOP might end up suffering quite a lot: The more they elevate Ryan, the more they elevate Ryan's Roadmap. And that document is a timebomb for them: It doesn't just privatize Medicare, but it holds costs down by giving seniors checks that won't keep up with the price of health care. It privatizes much of Social Security. It cuts taxes on the rich while raising them on many in the middle class.

The Republican Party, of course, hasn't shrunk back from the Roadmap. They've left it mostly alone, while embracing its author. But if this is the fondest hope of the GOP's smartest policy mind, they're eventually going to have to answer for it. Particularly if they don't come up with some policy ideas of their own that can take its place.

And so far, that effort isn't going so well either. The leaders of the House GOP wanted to wait on making big cuts to the budget until next year (and one wonders if they might've waited another year after that), but the massive Republican Study Group, which includes two-thirds of House Republicans, cut their knees out from under them and released a plan that privatizes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (wait till you see what the market does if it ever thinks that might pass), executes Amtrak and PBS, and names a bunch of other cuts that're going to lead to a lot of other unhappy.

The GOP ran a campaign that was gleefully vague. Since winning the House, they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act without saying what they'd replace it with. When asked to name programs they'd cut, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan all refused to name a single one. They have, in other words, worked hard to avoid getting specific about anything. But they can't dodge forever. Putting Ryan up as the face of the party suggests they know how important it is to seem like they have a plan. Without one, however, they're going to end up answering for his.

Photo credit: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  | January 21, 2011; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Republicans  
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Comments

Though, the specifics of the plan are something the public will not like, the message is one that works well. All Rep. Ryan and the GOP has to do is say "The Roadmap reduces the deficit." Democrats, on the other hand, are on the tenuous ground of having to explain not only what a voucher means, but also what it means to not be adjusted for medical costs. I feel the public will get confused at best, and hear reduces the deficit and via cognitive dissonance, not listen to anything else.

Posted by: RyanS1 | January 21, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

RyanS1: Not so fast. Remember GW's Social Security privatization scheme? Public cottoned on to that PDQ. Deficit reduction is something everybody likes in a vacuum. Push comes to shove, Krugman's Law comes into effect: Nobody cares about the deficit (if they have something to lose).

Posted by: jtmiller42 | January 21, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

He looks like a comic book character.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | January 21, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

can you imagine the hoards of bright younger wanna-bes streaming into the GOP, all with their hair parted nearly in the middle? It is no coincidence that the man's initials are PR!

Posted by: bdballard | January 21, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Anything the GOP does provides huge opportunities for Democrats.

The problem is Democrats have no clue how to capitalize on those opportunities.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 21, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

you have to give Ryan credit. He actually has a plan. A bad one in my, and Erza's, opinion, but it is still a plan. More than the rest of the GOP can claim.
.
The quote from Michelle Bachmann about health care and pre-existing conditions is quite telling. "The free market should handle pre-existing conditions; it handled them before."
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In other words it threw them back on the gov't at really high cost. Looks great from the insurance companies point of view though!

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 21, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

"...they're eventually going to have to answer for it."

I hope so, but I don't see a lot of evidence to back up that hope. Republicans are pretty good at dodging accountability.

Posted by: KennethAlmquist | January 21, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

At some point, one or both of the parties is going to have to take the responsibility for cutting Medicare spending. If not, we are going to leave it the bond market to decide for us.

Given the last 30 years of administrations and congresses as regards the deficit, I think a Democratic president and a Republican congress have the best chances. There will be plenty of opportunities to blame each other, but coming together to reject the "doc fix" could be a positive first step towards admitting we have a problem.

Of course, as long as we have windbags on either side lying to the public in pursuit of the greedy senior vote- those people that didn't put or keep enough in the system to sustain it, but now expect young people like me to pay for their $50k hips, odds of anything good happening are very low.

Posted by: staticvars | January 21, 2011 11:59 PM | Report abuse

I really disagree with this analysis. Why will the GOP ever have to answer for Ryan? The electorate has a very short memory, and that memory is completely dependent on macroeconomic factors.

As long as the opposition looks presidential (where Jindal, probably unfairly, failed), it doesn't matter what is said. The SOTU response is merely a reminder that an alternative exists.

You've written a few times that the GOP doesn't have to suffer until they're actually in charge of governing...that won't happen until at least 2012. And that might as well be 2068 in terms of politics.

Posted by: russell1820 | January 22, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I kind of agree with 'russell1820'.

The thing is unless 'flip-flops' of Ryan are as damaging as like John Kerry in public perception; Paul Ryan can afford to change his position.

Mark my words - he will do that as he comes more and more near to Presidency at some point in future.

The trick is how Mark Warner's of the world tie him to a pole so that it is impossible for Paul Ryan to do any flip flops. Failure do to so would morph him into Barry Goldwater of 21st century instead of Ronald Regan. Dems would be happy to get Goldwater 'Barry' (not another Barry Obama) instead of Ronald in that case.

Posted by: umesh409 | January 22, 2011 12:56 AM | Report abuse


You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price search online for "Wise Health Insurance" If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: carriemann | January 22, 2011 2:19 AM | Report abuse

@staticvars

What is IPAB but exactly that? A cost control agency shielded from political pressures.

Posted by: belegoster | January 22, 2011 3:41 AM | Report abuse

All the Democrats have to do to counter this so called 'roadmap' is constantly scream "GUT MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY!" Anyone remember the tea bagger with the sign telling government to stay out of his Medicare?

Eventually, and very soon, the GOP are going to have to offer actual, real numbers. And once people see those numbers, they're going to dump their tea.

Posted by: opus512 | January 22, 2011 7:33 AM | Report abuse

The voucher idea is idiotically horrible, and proves that Ryan doesn't have the first clue what is wrong with the health insurance market in the first place. The primary problem is, and always will be, "adverse selection", where healthier people under-insure, driving up the costs for the sicker people who need to remain in the pool. One of, if not the most, reedeeming quality of a universal system (including Medicare for our eldery) is that it circumvents adverse selection by insuring everyone with nearly identical plans, thus short-cutting the ability of the healthy to choose weak insurance or none at all.

If Medicare were replaced with vouchers, the adverse selection problem would infect the health insurance experience of our elderly. Healthier people would try to get buy with whatever the voucher could pay for, which would be too weak to protect the seriously ill from financial devastation. Sicker people then would then have buy "better" insurance without all the high deductables, copays, and caps, but would have to pay through the teeth for the insurance because the insurance company knows they are sick. And of course, the insurance companies would have every incentive to keep sure sick people were not on their rolls, and only healthy seniors were. All the perverse failings of our individual market would spread to the health insurance market for the elderly.

The idea of my 87-year-old grandma, who is three fourths blind and one quarter senile, shopping for health insurance is just ridiculous anyway. Ryan should know this.

Posted by: brickcha | January 22, 2011 7:39 AM | Report abuse

"you have to give Ryan credit. He actually has a plan. A bad one in my, and Erza's, opinion, but it is still a plan. More than the rest of the GOP can claim. Posted by: rpixley220"

What this demonstrates is that PR hasn't mastered the art of Republican Economics. You never give numbers or specifics, because as soon as you come up with something that can be evaluated you anger both the Right, which wants vague programs that easily pays off the whole National Debt by doing away with just a couple of unpopular Agencies, (Commerce, for one, only about $11 Billion and much of that in things like the patent office, and the trade marks office, and other totally useless departments), and the middle, who all seem to have this desire to keep totally unnecessary Departments like Energy (Who needs anyone to control all that stored plutonium).

Republicanomics has been moonshine and shadows since Nixon made the mistake of freezing wages and prices. Never again would Republican Economics theorists make such an identifiable mistake.

When Ryan actually tries to get Boehner to begin installing Ryanomics into legislation the Congress comes to a dead halt as Teasers declare every body else RINOs and demand that RINOs step down from leadership positions because this is really a T Caucus Congress.

Somewhere in this Boehner has to deal with at least one budget, and his party is notorious for not being willing to do so. Remember that, with the White House and Both Houses of Congress, and a particular willingness to totally ignore Democratic input they couldn't get a single budget done on time and couldn't get 2008 done at all.

It will be fun to see the republicans try to get legislation proposed that even fulfill Bohner's rules, let alone do anything approximating needed legislation.

And the 2012 budget? Bet it never gets written. All the democrat's fault, of course, because they were in Congress when the Republicans never got around to legislating.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 22, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

being shallow, all i can think to ask is: what's with his hair?

Posted by: frieda406 | January 22, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

""being shallow, all i can think to ask is: what's with his hair?""

That's thick, Republican, executive hair. Mitt Romney hair. It says, "I am in charge." Republicans love hair like that.

Posted by: tyromania | January 22, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Not to be catty but it really looks like the tribble Jim Traficant used to wear.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 22, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

"The voucher idea is idiotically horrible, and proves that Ryan doesn't have the first clue what is wrong with the health insurance market in the first place."

Silly you! This policy will not help your half-blind octogenarian grandma, nor was it meant to. If everybody gets a voucher, with no assurance of coverage, insurance companies can cherry-pick healthy people whose vouchers will cover their premiums, and they can still leave unprofitable grannies with no insurance on the curb. Ryan knows exactly what he is doing. He is insuring insurance profits and fooling the rubes.

Posted by: ciocia1 | January 22, 2011 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course, as long as we have windbags on either side lying to the public in pursuit of the greedy senior vote- those people that didn't put or keep enough in the system to sustain it, but now expect young people like me to pay for their $50k hips, odds of anything good happening are very low.

Posted by: staticvars |

----------------

Do you understand what Social Security is and how it works? "Those" people were taxed for their entire working lives - the government set the tax rate - its not like a 401K or IRA where you choose to put in a certain amount (which the Government limits by the way). And the so called Trust Fund was raided by the Politicians and filled with IOU's.....

Same thing for Medicare except for the IOU part - instead the Government has been ignoring fraud for too many years, refusing to fix the system due to its political costs and continuing to pass a "doctor fix" instead of actually face up to the reality of the program - it passes unfunded mandates down to the states which can't afford them.

But in your mind, it is "those" old people who are the issue? "Those" people now expect you to pay for their "50K" hips? Wow.

And they say it is the Republicans who hate those old people and want to ruin SS and Medicare....

Posted by: LMW6 | January 24, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I just finished Daniel Okrent's brilliant book on the rise and fall of Prohibition. This era reminds me of his description of 1929 when the dry's were triumphant and imagining that they had a "mandate" zealously overstepped the line, ultimately paving the way for the election of FDR and the end of the whole, sorry charade. While one has to congratulate Ryan for making the subtext of the GOP platform overt, were the specifics to begin to be enacted, there would be bipartisan protests from coast to coast.

Posted by: Koko3 | January 24, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

what has always amazed me about the talk of privatization in the states is the fact that people seem to think that if the government is in debt, it is indebt to US the people directly, and it can not fail, whereas a privat company MUST make money ie, the costs are considerably higher since they are not accountable to the general public who use the produce, but rather only accountable to the chosen few who own the company. Essentially my read in the Republicans [and certain Democrats] is that they want the american people to have to pay more for services that they are already paying for with taxes... and as I previously stated generating a profit for a chosen few.

Posted by: regor1950 | January 24, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

staticvars : ----- PUHLEASSSSE! Your RANT about seniors and how you object to paying for their artificial hips .... give me a break!!! As a baby boomer, my generation PUT IN PLENTY into the system in the days BEFORE NAFTA. Lots of hours, lots of overtime, work, work, work. Because the corporations want the money shift and because the BOZO's in Washington want to raid the funds and cut us off now, it's convenient for your ilk to say "cut off the seniors!" Perhaps YOU need something cut off. This younger generation ... such spoiled, selfish brats.

The system worked just fine, except the "powers that be" started raiding the fund and didn't pay it back. NOW, the idiots have the bright idea to PRIVATIZE it and put it in the SHAKY stock market (that people lost half their pensions on already over the past few years) so they and their rich cronies can make the fast buck off us WORKING STIFFS. Then when it comes for the "privatized" generation to retire, there will be some new emergency that wipes out half their pension or all of it. Meanwhile, you and your buddies will have made off with your bundle. Capitalistic corruption and greed ... that's what this country has come to stand for.

Posted by: CherMoeLin | January 24, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

dollarwatcher says, "He looks like a comic book character."

No one from the party that elected Barack Obama has any right to criticize Paul Ryan's appearance.

Posted by: JBaustian | January 24, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I have no reason to doubt Ezra Klein's analysis of the Republican "Roadmap". It sounds just like the kind of callous, greedy scheme they would endorse; but I'm dying to read the plan itself and see how they obfuscate and fudge the numbers to disguise it. Surely they won't be entirely candid about what they have in mind.
I've seen Ryan interviewed on television and was impressed primarily by his messianic air. He's clearly been listening to his own press too much. The Dems need to match him with an aggressive, no-nonsense foil who will press him hard about details. Like the character that Jack Nicholson plays in "A Few Good Men", Ryan might be driven by his own ego to admit what his plan is actually designed to do. One time ought suffice, if the press coverage is adequate.

Posted by: ajhil | January 24, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I have no reason to doubt Ezra Klein's analysis of the Republican "Roadmap". It sounds just like the kind of callous, greedy scheme they would endorse; but I'm dying to read the plan itself and see how they obfuscate and fudge the numbers to disguise it. Surely they won't be entirely candid about what they have in mind.
I've seen Ryan interviewed on television and was impressed primarily by his messianic air. He's clearly been listening to his own press too much. The Dems need to match him with an aggressive, no-nonsense foil who will press him hard about details. Like the character that Jack Nicholson plays in "A Few Good Men", Ryan might be driven by his own ego to admit what his plan is actually designed to do. One time ought suffice, if the press coverage is adequate.

Posted by: ajhil | January 24, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are a greedy bunch who would drive us off a cliff unless we wise up to their plan. They really don't care about ordinary Americans they care about conserving and multiplying the assets of the super rich. I really don't care how rich a person is but don't orchestrate your extortion at my expense. The idea of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and then trying to balance the budget at the expense of senior citizens is crude and immoral. The population of senior citizens is increasing at a rate that makes them a major political force if they are properly organized. They were deceived during the last election into believing the Right Wing spin about death panels and all the other garbage these muck rakers dug up. The danger for the GOP, however, is that with the baby boomers becoming senior citizens a more intelligent subset of that population is emerging. They will not be easily fooled. Also, the AARP ought to be more aggressive in serving the interests of their members. Unless something is done soon the greedy will continue to ship our jobs overseas to Countries that do not like our people but like our money. Democrats please rid your ranks of the old time soup drinkers a promote candidates who care about main stream America. God bless all Americans.

Posted by: fasm7700 | January 25, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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