JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 9, 2011
Ramesh Ponnuru wonders why Republicans aren't sticking up more for their plan to privatize and cut Medicare:
There has been some talk, including in this space, about the Republican abandonment of Medicare reform. It’s a little puzzling to me. Earlier this spring, I spoke to a lot of Republicans on both sides of the debate over whether to raise the issue in the Republican budget proposal, and I both interviewed Paul Ryan and paid attention to what he said in other venues. I was skeptical about bringing this issue up at all until a Republican presidential nominee was selected. But in all my time listening and debating, I never heard any of the advocates of tackling Medicare now say that they wanted to move legislation enacting these reforms in this Congress. I never heard anyone say that Republicans should insist on enactment of Medicare reform as the price for raising the debt ceiling. I never heard Ryan—the foremost advocate of putting the Republicans on record for Medicare reform—demand any of these things.
As far as I can tell, the plan all along was to propose a budget that showed how Medicare reform would contribute to, well, a path to prosperity, defend that reform, and try to get more supporters of reform elected in 2012. I don’t see how sticking to the plan can be seen as a retreat. But I also haven’t seen any Republicans make this point in this week’s news stories.
This is true. To concede they can't pass the plan now does not represent an abandonment. But I think Republicans had genuinely convinced themselves that the Ryan plan would win public acclaim, and are awakening to the reality that they were gulled, and gulled themselves, about this. They're stuck with the vote now, but they probably want to characterize it as more of a conservation starter that they don't actually support in a literal way. Republicans certainly could come out and say "nothing's changed, we know we can't pass this now, but if you vote in more Republicans in 2012, this is what we'll do." Their failure to say this is probably not an oversight.