JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 31, 2011
I have a guest column at the Daily Beast about the Republican Party's self-destructive decision to support the Paul Ryan budget and, faced with the disastrous consequences, to dig in deeper. For an example of digging in deeper, check out Marc Thiessen's column today. In the face of clear evidence to the contrary, he asserts that Kathy Hochul won in New York only because a third party spoiler split the Republican vote.
Having assigned to the Republican 100% of Jack Davis's third party vote, Thiessen proceeds to argue, "Democrat Kathy Hochul won only a 47 percent plurality — just one point more than Barack Obama got when he lost the district back in 2008. As national referendums go, that is not terribly convincing." It's not? If House Democrats beat Obama's 2008 vote by one percentage point in the next election, who does Thiessen think will control the House? You could argue that Hochul is just one data point and probably an outlier, and I'd agree. But it is a data point with clear negative implications for Republicans.
After asserting that the race proved almost nothing about Medicare, Thiessen then, arguing in the alternative, suggests a solution for Republicans to fight back anyway:
[T]he lesson of the New York special election is that if Republicans want to win in 2012, they need to stop playing defense and go on the offensive.
Why on earth have Republicans allowed Democrats to define the Ryan proposal as a plan to “end Medicare” when it is the Democrats who risk ending Medicare though a policy of neglect? Even the New York Times editorial page warned after the New York vote, “Sooner or later, Democrats will have to admit that Medicare cannot keep running as it is — its medical costs are out of control, and a recent report showed its trust fund running out of money in 2024, five years earlier than expected.”
Democrats have put forward no plan to deal with this fiscal crisis. Quite the opposite, they made it worse by taking $500 billion out of Medicare to help fund the president’s health-care law — robbing Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The time has come for the GOP to take the gloves off. When liberal groups put up an ad showing Ryan pushing Grandma off of a cliff, Republicans need to counter with an ad showing Obama, Pelosi and Reid pushing Grandma off the cliff — because that is where Medicare is headed if we follow their policy of inaction. The message should be: If we do nothing, Medicare will collapse — and millions of retirees will be left without health coverage. Democratic neglect will kill Medicare; Republicans are trying to save it.
Next, Republicans need to expand the debate. The Medicare proposal is just one element of a broader GOP plan to reduce our ballooning debt — which, in turn, is one element of a larger plan to restore economic growth and create jobs.
So, accuse democrats of letting Medicare go bankrupt, promise that you just want to save it, and then try to persuade voters that preserving the Bush tax cuts that have been in place for a decade will stimulate growth. Wow, why haven't Republicans thought of this plan before?