I suppose it says something about Washington that the act of voting on a federal budget is now a symbolic exercise with relevance only to the next congressional election’s various campaign advertisements. But we are now represented by a Congress which approaches the budget process with no intention of enacting an actual budget. The only measure of true bipartisan agreement is that President Obama’s ideas are terrible, unable to muster any support on either side of the isle.
So the president has apparently given up. Among the many budget-related stunts and shenanigans this week was a House Republican demand for a vote on President Obama’s 2014 budget–which is currently nonexistent, and therefore a blank page. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has been unwilling and unable to pass a budget; the House, controlled by Republicans, passed a budget today, as they do each year (a novel concept Democrats still don’t seem to understand). Both parties in the House presented budgets they knew wouldn’t pass before approving the GOP budget. That resulted in a frightening moment for the party in power, when they risked accidentally passing a budget produced by their own party that was not the one they actually wanted to enact. As the Hill reported on a Republican Study Committee-produced budget yesterday:
Paul Ryan’s role in the 2012 presidential election was, from the standpoint of some congressional Republicans, perfect. Because Ryan is the author of budget-cutting legislation that seeks to reform entitlements, especially Medicare, his proposals are controversial. Republicans in Congress may be supportive of such legislation, and indeed voted for it in large numbers, but it opens up an easy line of attack for their opponents. But they also want to rein in debt, support their fellow (popular) conservative reformer, and stay in the good graces of the party’s grassroots–as Newt Gingrich found out when he criticized Ryan’s plan in harsh terms and earned the ire of conservative voters when he ran for the GOP nomination.
Gingrich backtracked, but he was in an unenviable position: he wanted to appeal to both the center and the base; he didn’t want to appear timid by backtracking and deferring to Ryan, who wasn’t running. But he also couldn’t embrace a plan he had genuine concerns about, both philosophically and with regard to electoral politics. This is where many in the party found themselves on the issue of trying to win local and national elections–caught between prudence and their reformist instincts. Ryan chose not to run for president, which prevented the party’s candidates from having to spend an entire election season defending that one proposal. And because he was picked up as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, his own plans were overshadowed by those of Romney–the top of the ticket. Thus, had the GOP ousted President Obama in November, Republicans would have arrived on the cusp of major conservative reform in a relatively quiet way.
On “Fox and Friends” this morning at 7 a.m. came the news that President Obama and Speaker Boehner had had a phone call last evening, content not disclosed.
That shouldn’t have been news—these are the leaders of each party trying to avoid a governmental disaster that could come in less than a month, and should be talking 10 times a day. But it was news, and that’s troubling to say the least.
As Daniel Henninger makes clear in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Where in his career did Barack Obama ever learn the art of the political deal? Nowhere.” He writes:
Although today’s Washington Post/ABC poll gives Mitt Romney no reason to panic–he’s down just one point among likely voters–it should at least raise a red flag: Romney does not seem to be pulling away on the economy, the centerpiece of his campaign. But even more frustrating for the campaign may be that Romney picked a fight he now seems to be losing: Medicare. According to the poll, he’s trailing the president on that question too.
Before Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, Gallup’s polling showed that few were thinking about Medicare heading into the election. Think of it as the opportunity cost–which was raised at the time–of diverting the campaign messaging away from the economy. But you can divert attention from the economy if it’s to an issue voters care about, and if you can win the argument over it. Here’s Gallup’s mid-August chart of the “non-economic” issue voters thought presented the “most important problem” (most recent results from left):
Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn’t really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can’t count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves “progressives,” that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.
The best of example of this came over the weekend as Vice President Biden, whose value as the administration’s rabid attack dog has never been more apparent, denounced Republican plans for reforming Medicare so as to enable it to survive despite the overwhelming demographic and budget disaster that looms over it. Biden’s battle cry claiming: “We are for Medicare; they are for Vouchercare,” contained no nuances about dealing with problems. Indeed, Biden, citing his own mother’s experience, gave a straightforward pitch for paternalistic government in which he said older Americans were too befuddled to make their own choices and needed to be told what to do by Washington.
When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate Democrats rejoiced. They were sure that the elevation of the author of the Republican Congress budget plan that called for reform of entitlements like Medicare guaranteed the president’s re-election. They had already been planning to run hard against the Ryan budget no matter who was on the GOP ticket. But having Ryan as their piñata seemed like a dream come true.
But tonight at the Republican National Convention, as Ryan got his prime time spot accepting his nomination, the rest of the country began to understand why conservatives have been so devoted to him. Ryan’s speech was not merely well executed but an example of how he earned his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party. Even more important, he showed that he and the man at the top of the ticket plan to run on the reformist ideas that Democrats think work to their advantage. Far from shying away from the Obama campaign’s Mediscare tactics, they are ready to rumble on a platform aimed at saving entitlements against the status quo policies of the administration.
Mitt Romney is closing the gap in Florida and Wisconsin, according to today’s Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll. According to Quinnipiac, this seems to be a mini-bump from the Paul Ryan pick:
Matching Obama against Romney among likely voters in each of these key states shows:
- Florida: Obama at 49 percent to Romney’s 46 percent, compared to Obama’s 51 – 45 percent lead August 1;
- Ohio: Obama edges Romney 50 – 44 percent, unchanged from August 1;
- Wisconsin: Obama at 49 percent to Romney’s 47 percent, compared to Obama’s 51 – 45 percent lead August 8.
Ohio is the one state polled where Romney’s numbers have remained flat. The poll was also taken between August 15 and August 21, so it may not reflect any negative impact from the wall-to-wall Todd Akin coverage (though abortion issues don’t rank anywhere near a top concern with swing-state voters, according to the poll).
I don’t want to be too optimistic about these numbers, since there’s still two and a half months of Mediscaring to go, and Democrats haven’t even gone full-blast on it yet. Still, this WaPo-ABC News poll (via the Fix) is pretty promising for Paul Ryan:
Grandma isn’t scared of Paul Ryan.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 41 percent of Americans view the new GOP vice presidential nominee favorably, while 37 percent rate him unfavorably — slightly improved from last week’s polling.
Among seniors, though, the numbers are even better for Ryan: 50 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable. Fully one-third of seniors say they have a strongly favorable view of the Wisconsin congressman, while one-quarter have a strongly unfavorable view.
The numbers suggest Democrats’ attempts to turn Ryan’s Medicare proposal against the GOP haven’t stuck yet among the most pivotal group: seniors. If a Medicare attack was working, after all, seniors would likely be the first group to start deserting Ryan.
It’s not just that the attempts have failed to stick. The fact that 33 percent of seniors (a plurality in this poll) say they hold strongly favorable views of Ryan suggests that this group a.) has probably taken time to think about him and made a relatively well-formed decision, and b.) is less likely to be swayed into the negative camp. That will make it more difficult for Democrats to spread misinformation about Ryan’s positions on Medicare.
Via the Purple Poll, Mitt Romney has seen gains in Ohio and Pennsylvania since choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate. While President Obama has made some inroads in Colorado and Florida, Romney still leads by a 1-point margin in the latter:
Romney has seen the largest gain in Ohio, a state we have seen bounce between the campaigns over the last few months. Today, the GOP ticket leads by 2 points (46% to 44%), compared to July when President Obama led the state 48% to 45%. Romney also gained ground in Virginia – today, he and Paul Ryan hold a 3-point advantage in the race (48% to 45%), while Romney trailed by 2 points in July.
However, President Obama has seen improvements in Colorado and Florida. In Colorado, the Obama-Biden ticket now leads 49% to 46%, an increase from a 1-point lead in July. In Florida, the Democratic ticket trails by just 1 point (48% to 47%), compared to a 3 point deficit in July.
The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.
The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.
One day after Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice president, the consensus among Democrats is all they have to do to win in November is to mention one word: Medicare. They are convinced Paul Ryan’s budget and his belief that entitlements must be reformed if they are to be preserved is easily demagogued. Mediscare tactics are at the heart of their belief that a critical mass of voters can be stampeded toward Obama and the Democrats by claiming Paul Ryan is the boogeyman who is going to push grandma over the cliff. There is good reason to believe that once Americans get a good look at Ryan and start listening to his ideas they’ll be convinced this liberal caricature is just the usual mainstream media sliming of conservatives, but if there is any group on which such fears might work, it is among American Jews. That will make the battle for the Jewish vote in Florida a key test of Democrat plans.
Though many in the Obama camp have been trying to pretend there is no problem for them among this staunchly partisan Democratic demographic, there’s little doubt that uneasiness about the president’s attitude toward Israel is going to cost him a lot of Jewish votes this November. The administration’s election year Jewish charm offensive confirmed the White House understands that three years of constant fights with Israel will have electoral consequences. But today, liberals are predicting Florida will be where they will best be able to stampede elderly Jews away from the Republicans, worries over Israel notwithstanding. That’s the conceit of the Forward’s first shot on the topic that claimed Ryan would be a “Four-Letter Word” among Jews. But liberal assumptions on this point may turn out to be more wishful thinking than anything else.
As John wrote earlier today, liberals are convinced that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate offers them a golden opportunity to savage the Republicans about the Wisconsin congressman’s budget plans. Predictably, the New York Times delivered one of the first such salvos in its editorial posted hours after Romney announced his pick in which it slammed Ryan as “callous” and claimed his attempt to control the nation’s out-of-control entitlements would leave the poor and the elderly sicker while also harming the unemployed and students. Not considering it advisable to even make a pretense of noting the GOP veep candidate’s strengths, the Times thought it advisable to go for the jugular first and worry about nuance later. We can expect the rest of the liberal mainstream media to do no less in the days and weeks that will follow.
However, it must be noted that the expectation by liberals that they can get away with such blatant demagoguery is not entirely without foundation. The pick of Ryan should energize the Republican base and will lend intellectual heft to a Romney campaign that has often seemed intent on merely waiting for the voters to fire Barack Obama rather than putting forward its own vision. But we know that “Mediscare” tactics employed by the Democrats have worked sometimes. And, as Times political blogger and statistical analyst Nate Silver pointed out on Wednesday, Ryan brings no obvious or immediate tactical political advantages to the Republicans. If Romney’s choice does anything it is to provide a test for the electorate. Are they prepared to listen to reasoned arguments articulated by Ryan about the need for entitlement reform, or will they succumb to simplistic liberal cant about pushing grandma over the cliff? As much as conservatives want to believe the American public is not so foolish or shortsighted as to simply accept the left’s defense of the status quo, we won’t know the answer to that question until November.
The speech vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan delivered this morning gives a sense of the quality you get from being in a room with him: He’s not a fire-breather. He’s unflappable and unadorned, combining plain-spokenness with almost offhanded rhetorical hints of the deeper philosophy undergirding his opinions (“our rights are from nature and God, not from government”). This wasn’t a populist spark-plug of a speech the way Sarah Palin’s dazzling out-of-nowhere introduction to America was in 2008; it was a calm elaboration of themes already articulated by the Romney campaign. Most important, he and Romney both spoke of saving Medicare, indicating that they have already thought long and hard about the attack that will be waged against them because Ryan’s famous budget changes the structure of Medicare for everybody under 55. The line being proffered before the speech was that Mitt Romney had chosen a vice-presidential candidate who will effectively become the presidential candidate because Romney has no ideas and Ryan has a million. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the game going forward. Romney is the candidate, and he will pick and choose from Ryan’s ideas at will; it is Ryan who will have to say, as George H.W. Bush said, that he understands his ideas have been superseded by his boss’s. Remember, he’s voted many times for legislation he presumably didn’t really like (Medicare Part D, TARP, the auto bailout) because of political necessity.
Negative signs abound for the medical community today, as the House Oversight Committee prepares to hear testimony on the impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients. First, there’s the recent Doctor Patient Medical Association poll, which found 90 percent of doctors say the medical system is on the wrong track and 83 percent are thinking about quitting (h/t Daily Caller):
- 90% say the medical system is on the WRONG TRACK
- 83% say they are thinking about QUITTING
- 61% say the system challenges their ETHICS
- 85% say the patient-physician relationship is in a TAILSPIN
- 65% say GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT is most to blame for current problems
- 72% say individual insurance mandate will NOT result in improved access care
- 49% say they will STOP accepting Medicaid patients
- 74% say they will STOP ACCEPTING Medicare patients, or leave Medicare completely
- 52% say they would rather treat some Medicaid/Medicare patient for FREE
- 57% give the AMA a FAILING GRADE representing them
- 1 out of 3 doctors is HESITANT to voice an opinion
- 2 out of 3 say they are JUST SQUEAKING BY OR IN THE RED financially
- 95% say private practice is losing out to CORPORATE MEDICINE
- 80% say DOCTORS/MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS are most likely to help solve things
- 70% say REDUCING GOVERNMENT would be single best fix.
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A new study by Chuck Blahous, public trustee for Medicare and Social Security, blows to smithereens the claim that the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) will cut the deficit. According to Blahous, President Obama’s health care law unambiguously worsens the nation’s already unsustainable fiscal path. Among its key findings are these:
· Even under an optimistic scenario, the health care law will add more than $1.15 trillion to federal spending over the next decade.
· The law will add more than $340 billion and as much as $530 billion to federal deficits over the same period, and increasing amounts thereafter.
· To ensure the health care law doesn’t worsen the nation’s fiscal outlook, two-thirds of the subsidies must be repealed or other fiscal offsets found before benefits begin in 2014.
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s latest budget plan includes a few deviations from last year, most notably to his Medicare reform proposal. Last spring, Democrats assailed Ryan and House Republicans for trying to “end Medicare” — a charge so false and prevalent that PolitiFact named it the “Lie of the Year.”
But the attacks from Democrats still hit their mark, and the new plan is a bit milder. Ryan still proposes a system in which senior citizens could purchase private insurance plans with Medicare vouchers. But this time around, he preserves the option for seniors to choose the public plan.