Acknowledging and Understanding Government

The GOP (and our politics in general) will not be healed until there is an honest assessment of what government is (and is not).

It was, if you all will pardon the pun, the elephant in the room:  government.

Sure, there was the oft-noted in pro-democratic circles fact that the building in which the convention was housed was built largely with government funds (not to mention the fact the convention itself was funded by tax dollars).  These simple facts made the whole “We Built It” theme a bit confused.

However, beyond that was the simple fact that the politicians themselves and the speeches they gave reminded us that government, you know, does stuff and it is often good and useful stuff, whether we are talking about national goals or personal development.

For example, we know that Paul Ryan funded his college education by banking the Social Security survivor’s benefits that he received as a result of the untimely death of his father.

Or, take Romney’s own speech.  In the biographical section he noted: “My dad had been born in Mexico and his family had to leave during the Mexican revolution. I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the US Government as war refugees.”

Moreover, when he wanted to make an appeal to a grand national accomplishment he pointed to the moon landing, a wholly government-created and funded endeavor:

I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. When President Kennedy challenged Americans to go to the moon, the question wasn’t whether we’d get there, it was only when we’d get there.

On the one hand, it is an example of an accomplishment that remains a truly great, and unmatched, achievement of the United States of America.  On the other hand, it was the direct opposite of letting “job creators” and the magic market do its thing.  Indeed, it is an illustration of the fact that sometimes collected, directed effort is required to achieve great things.

Moving beyond Romney, we can look to Chris Christie speaking about his father:

After returning from Army service, he worked at the Breyers Ice Cream plant in the 1950s. With that job and the G.I. bill he put himself through Rutgers University at night to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.

So, we have here a number of examples, both personal and rhetorical, in which government did good things.  It would seem, then, that instead of pretending like the argument is between people who look to the government for a handout (all those socialists, donthca know) and those who do it all by themselves, that we would be better served by a discussion that fully acknowledges that government plays a role of significance in the lives of Americans, and then have a debate about how best that should function.

I am not arguing that all good flows from government.  Indeed, I think that the actions of individuals are key and that hard work is a significant variable in success.  However, I also think that pretending like government doesn’t have an important and ongoing role to play is folly and that belief is part of the GOP’s problem at the moment.  Moreover, I find it remarkable that Romney can cite NASA and Christie the GI Bill, and at the same time argue that what we need more than anything is to look at government like it is a business.

Indeed, part of Romney’s trouble at the moment is because he largely negates government’s role in his rhetoric (because that is what the base wants to here) he in running a vague, nearly themeless campaign.  It is difficult to say that government can’t do anything at the same time one is saying that one wants to be the chief executive of that government as a means of making things better.

Update I must confess, these days when I hear Republicans talk about government, I always think of the following clip from The Life of Brian:

(Which was mentioned today in a comment thread, I forget which one, by John Personna. I must confess that this clip comes to mind with great frequency of late).

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Indeed.
    Ryan is heir to a fortune built on Government work, and has worked in and around Government his entire life.
    Romney himself is a Welfare Queen, profiting off millions in Corporate Welfare.
    Senator Rand Paul did an entire anti-government speech…ironic coming from the son of a man that has held elected office since 1976…and who wouldn’t even be a Senator if not for his father’s career in Government.
    I’ve come to expect awe-inspiring hypocrisy from Republicans. This topic doesn’t disapoint.

    It would be nice to hear about smart Government. Efficient Government. Evidently that isn’t black and white enough for our system. It has to be dumbed down to the point that it no longer makes any sense.

  2. (Note that the misspelled “personna” is intentional, for google search purity. Just me and the razor blades.)

  3. @john personna: I actually had it right originally, changed it, thought it looked wrong, meant to check, and then forgot about it…

    I will fix.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    The GOP plays on voter disaffection and dissatisfaction constantly, and with great success.

    Paul Ryan’s Social Security Survivor benefits, Chris Christie’s father’s G.I. Bill benefits, and Michele Bachmann’s family’s federal farm subsidies – these are considered to be ‘good’ government programs which benefit ‘deserving’ people. The feeling is that these benefits were earned and not allocated to ‘undeserving’ people.

    Paul Ryan’s plan to begin the privatization of Medicare will significantly reduce the future medical insurance benefits to retired Americans, people who feel that they have earned that benefit and are deserving of it. His plan would shift the burden of increasing medical expenses on to retirees. Yet, in all these discussions concerning the long-term financial viability of the program, absolutely no one has the courage to suggest that the Medicare Tax rate be adjusted and increased to ensure the viability of the program.

    We are a country that is so dumbed down that we cannot have a rational discussion about anything of importance.

  5. No problem really, I just thought I’d mention it because it had come through that way before.

  6. mantis says:

    It is difficult to say that government can’t do anything at the same time one is saying that one wants to be the chief executive of that government as a means of making things better.

    Funny, they don’t seem to have any difficulty saying that. They don’t care that they don’t make sense at all. They are throwing red meat to idiots, giving them an enemy to despise.

    Besides, they don’t mean a word of it. How much did we hear from Republicans about the evils of government when George Bush was president? Government is the source of all evil, but only when a Democrat sits in the White House.

    The GOP (and our politics in general) will not be healed until there is an honest assessment of what government is (and is not).

    So…never.

  7. Rob in CT says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I, for one, can’t wait until befuddled 70+ yr. olds are out there buying health insurance on the private market with vouchers. Paradise!

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Rob in CT:

    @al-Ameda:
    I, for one, can’t wait until befuddled 70+ yr. olds are out there buying health insurance on the private market with vouchers. Paradise!

    I can see it now: “but my monthly voucher is for $1,000 and the insurance company says that my premium, even with a $3000 deductible is going to be $1,800 per month.

    The expectation that retired Americans are going to find (through the magic of competitive private insurance markets) beneficent insurance companies that are going to offer low cost medical insurance to senior citizens (who have developed chronic ailments and other conditions are are costly to treat) is unbelievable in concept.

  9. It is funny how real this is:

    Yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitaion, the aqueduct and the roads…

    Of course Cleese was probably channeling Tories or something.

  10. DRE says:

    @Rob in CT: I, for one, can’t wait until befuddled 70+ yr. olds are out there buying health insurance on the private market with vouchers. Paradise!

    I’m wandering off topic here, but this is something I can’t understand. Health insurance is all about pooling risk and sharing a managable cost, rather than individually risking disaster. Medicare is a needed government intervention to deal with a sub-population that has a much higher than average risk. How can it possibly make sense to take a large pool created by gov’t intervention, and break it back down to the individual level, hoping that the market will somehow create more efficiency building smaller pools?

  11. Stonetools says:

    @Rob in CT:

    They’ll take the same rational , orderly approach to buying health insurance that Clint Eastwood does to speech making.

  12. JKB says:

    As demonstrated here, the problem with a rational conversation over the role of Government is that, for one, any criticism or question is considered a repudiation of all government and, two, any acknowledgement of some roll of government is immediately jumped on as cause for acceptance of whatever government chooses to do. A foolish proposition and one I hope you do not inflict upon your students.

    The question, of course, is not the utility of government but its extent and its cost. One can, divorced of reality and its limitations, rationalize all sorts of government incursions upon liberty and expansions of benefit programs. But such mental gymnastics is a waste of time as the limits do exist. One man’s exigent circumstances is another man’s right to be secure in his home and papers. One provision of free cell phones is another’s wonder why they work and pay their own way in life. An expansion of benefits paid is a dissuasion from work and effort which brings real liberty.

    The question is not on whether government but to its size, extent, impositions and tax burden. Let us acknowledge that there will be socialism if we wish government to be the charity of choice but let us also acknowledge that that socialism must be limited to very tight areas of government and burned from the soil as a invasive species outside these areas.

  13. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda:

    You see the problem now explain how the medical care will be paid for by government without extracting an unlimited amount of tax dollars? The solution may or may not work but we do know unlimited liabilities upon the Treasury is not sustainable. So if you can’t offer something constructive to the solution, what good are you doing carping about those who are seeking an answer?

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @DRE:

    How can it possibly make sense to take a large pool created by gov’t intervention, and break it back down to the individual level, hoping that the market will somehow create more efficiency building smaller pools?

    To me it makes no sense whatsoever. There’s a reason insurance companies do not want to insure seniors – they’re too expensive. Chronic ailments plus end of life care costs are extensive, and without the benefits of pooling, the insurance is very expensive.

    That’s a question for Paul Ryan, who wants to privatize the Medicare system., and shift the burden of increasing medical insurance and healthcare costs from the federal program to senior citizens.

  15. @JKB:

    Let’s remember Reagan’s starting meme:

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

    Don’t put it on the center and left that they can’t talk about what should be done in markets. They are fighting a crazy battle way off in right field. The GOP is still campaigning on a simple “government is the problem” message.

    In fact, you can buy a “Government is the Problem, Not the Solution” bumper sticker right here. That would be at the “Patriot Depot” where you buy “supplies for the conservative revolution.”

  16. DRE says:

    @JKB: any criticism or question is considered a repudiation of all government and, two, any acknowledgement of some roll of government is immediately jumped on as cause for acceptance of whatever government chooses to do. A foolish proposition and one I hope you do not inflict upon your students.

    I think that you may have neglected to read the post. Did you miss this part?

    we would be better served by a discussion that fully acknowledges that government plays a role of significance in the lives of Americans, and then have a debate about how best that should function.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    @al-Ameda:
    You see the problem now explain how the medical care will be paid for by government without extracting an unlimited amount of tax dollars? The solution may or may not work but we do know unlimited liabilities upon the Treasury is not sustainable. So if you can’t offer something constructive to the solution, what good are you doing carping about those who are seeking an answer?

    I just explained why the Ryan Plan is not an answer that works to the benefit of American citizens. Why can’t we talk about increasing the Medicare Tax rather than gifting insurance companies with hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars a year while burdening retired Americans on fixed incomes with huge additional out-of-pocket costs to maintain their health insurance?

    Many people on the right, and people who in the interest of appearing to be objective and who ought to know better, are saying that Ryan has the best plan because, well … it’s a plan. And that is total bulls***.

  18. @DRE:

    I think that you may have neglected to read the post. Did you miss this part?

    So it would seem.

    As those old PSAs from my childhood used to say: Reading Is Fundamental. 😉

  19. Liberty60 says:

    @JKB: I know you are trying to be reasonable here, and I applaud that.
    But consider this sentence-

    An expansion of benefits paid is a dissuasion from work and effort which brings real liberty

    You are assuming that government intervention takes the form of transfer payments- taking money from those who work and giving it to those who don’t. Actually, quite a few liberals make this same mistake.

    It is a mistake because when we look at the vast majority of government spending- (Defense/ Homeland Security, Social Security, Medicare account for about 2/3 of federal spending) it becomes obvious that nearly all of us are recipients of government benefits at some point.

    In other words, even if we eliminated welfare and food stamps and any other form of benefits to the unemployed we would still be spending far more than we receive in revenue.

    So that leaves us with a decision- do we call SS and Medicare “welfare” and castigate those who receive it as moochers and looters?
    Do these programs “dissuade work and effort”?

    Or do we acknowledge that these programs do effective work in creating and sustaining a middle class, a middle class that in turn sustains the consumer economy and provides jobs?

  20. Stonetools says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think a lot of the problem is that thanks to three decades of right wing propaganda, Americans are just deluded about the role of government. For example, most of the business people that Romney touted as ” I built it themselfers ” in fact benefited from government loans . Despite that , they are convinced that they had NO help from government.
    If you talk to a lot of right wingers, they just seem to take it for granted that roads, running water, sanitation, street lights, police, and firefighting services ” just happen” and aren’t actually provided by that evil, bloodsucking, foreign entity called “government “.
    Before we go forward, we may just have to deprogram the populace. How can we do that? Dunno.

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @JKB:

    An expansion of benefits paid is a dissuasion from work and effort which brings real liberty.

    Americans average more hours of work than at any time since we started recording such data, and your suggestion that work shall set us free has a poor historical pedigree. You might want to think before you post again.

    Nothing is contributed to the discussion when you make bold assertions not supported by any form of evidence. To be blunt, you and those with your mindset are the problem, because you are incapable of moving beyond your simplistic political ideology and partisanship.

  22. @JKB: In the interest of comity and clarity, let me address this:

    As demonstrated here, the problem with a rational conversation over the role of Government is that, for one, any criticism or question is considered a repudiation of all government and, two, any acknowledgement of some roll of government is immediately jumped on as cause for acceptance of whatever government chooses to do. A foolish proposition and one I hope you do not inflict upon your students.

    I am not sure what you are getting at with your first sentence: what is being “demonstrated here” and by whom? I am not sure if you mean OTB in general, my post, or the comments.

    And I am not saying that one cannot criticize government nor am I saying that because government does one good thing should mean that all things that the government does is good.

    I am stating that a) government is, b) often government does good and useful things, c) even those of us who worked (and continue to work) hard to become successful probably received some level of government help along the way and, therefore, d) the debate in the political arena should not be this government v. the individual bit that suffuses Republican rhetoric (and policy prescriptions) at the moment, but rather a debate about the proper role and scope of government. This cannot happen if “government” is cast as bad and if the solution to everything is thought to be privatization and any opposition to such is socialism.

  23. DRE says:

    @JKB: So if you can’t offer something constructive to the solution, what good are you doing carping about those who are seeking an answer?

    He’s pointing out that Ryan, while saying that Medicare must be saved from evil Obamacare cuts, is proposing a plan that does nothing about the cost but breaks any logic to the system.
    I consider that constructive. As you say the problem is long term cost. We should be discussing how best to manage and meet that cost, but Ryan demonizes that discussion and offers market voodoo in its place.

  24. @Liberty60: Exactly.

  25. @Stonetools:

    Americans are just deluded about the role of government

    I fear that this is exactly the problem.

    I do think that simply talking through these things can be helpful.

  26. @Ben Wolf:

    Americans average more hours of work than at any time since we started recording such data, and your suggestion that work shall set us free has a poor historical pedigree. You might want to think before you post again.

    Indeed. This is no small thing: the notion that we are all getting lazy as a country because of various social programs is not supported by the evidence.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    I’m with JKB…keep the Government out of my Social Security!!!

  28. Stonetools says:

    Paul Ryan is a classic case of conservative cognitive dissonance. Here is a man who owes a LOT to the federal government. His family fortune was built on Government construction contracts. He went to school on Social Security death benefits. For the last 20 years of his life he has been on the federal payroll. As a Congressman he lobbied for federal benefits for his district.
    How in the world can he be a Randian, calling for no government help for anyone? If I was Ryan, my head would be exploding. Yet he is a typical conservative those days.

  29. Stonetools says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s been a conservative canard, based on no evidence whatever, that any population that receives government benefits are doomed to become lazy sheeple, who will hand over their freedom to a faceless, ruthless, domineering government. The tracts that push this message include junk like the Rand novels, but also sophistticated treatises like ” The Road to Serfdom” (Hayek) and ” Capitalism and Freedom” (Friedman).
    We now know that this canard is wrong ,but it remains ever popular in conservative circles.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    I’m afraid that the only way that the average Republican will learn is if we give them everything they’re loudly clamouring for. Get rid of Medicare, Medicaid. Get rid of all those pesky government agencies like the FDA, the Department of Commerce, and the NIH.

    And then, when they discover that senile old Gramps has been dumped back on them from the nursing home, their pension got clobbered by some Bain-like raider, and little Johnny is getting his brain eaten away by mad cow disease, shrug your shoulders and tell them: hey, it’s what you wanted…..

    Fiat justicia, ruat coelum.

  31. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. I probably should amend the above to be “average Tea-Partier”, not “average Republican.”

  32. David M says:

    I think the GOP has boxed themselves into such an ideological corner they are incapable of having this conversation without seeing it as admitting failure. They have to take the position that government makes things worse, otherwise they might end up compromising on legislation with Democrats.

    Obama and the Democrats used a GOP approved starting point of Romneycare during the health care reform negotiations, and the GOP basically walked away and said the government shouldn’t be involved at all. They usually won’t even admit Medicare works unless they are attacking the Democrats.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    How can it possibly make sense to take a large pool created by gov’t intervention, and break it back down to the individual level, hoping that the market will somehow create more efficiency building smaller pools?

    You’re asking for far too much–Republican ideas actually making sense…

    Perhaps JKB can answer the question as to why do Republicans always seem to hate government yet relentlessly try to control it and never can cut it when they control it but only seem to expand it? Hmm, do you think that people like JKB realize that they are being played for fools by the GOP?

  34. DRE says:

    @An Interested Party: You’re asking for far too much–Republican ideas actually making sense…

    I guess it does make sense as a political strategy if people are dumb enough to buy it.

    1. Ryan wants to radically reduce Medicare spending in the future.
    2. Ryan knows that the only way to do that is to reduce benifits to recipients.
    3. Current system has guarenteed benifits, and it is politically impossible to lower them.

    Hmmm.

    1. Offer a replacement plan where benifits are provided by private entities, and Medicare is a voucher with growth limits.
    2. Private entities reduce benifits in order to make money with voucher premiums.
    3. Lament the vagaries of the market but “the free market must be respected.
    4. Political debate is about the size of vouchers, not about necessary care.

  35. DRE says:

    @DRE: Please excuse my spelling. I must be tired.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    I guess it does make sense as a political strategy if people are dumb enough to buy it.

    Sadly, most of what Republicans have to offer only makes sense as a political strategy…

  37. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Oh, I agree with your premise, we need to have a rational discussion about the level and role of government. However, both sides are at fault. The Democrats refuse to face the reality that the programs are untenable and cling to the false hope of taking more from the high producers. And perhaps after a time, confiscation of the wealth of private individuals.

    I, for one do, subscribe to the government as evil premise but simply as a means to maintain vigilance. Government is not something to be done away with but it is a danger to be controlled. It is force and seeks to take more and more from the citizen unless constantly restrained. Everything government does and wants to do should be questioned and carefully balanced against the threat it poses to the freedom and liberty of citizens. I do not feel my views are that much different from many of our founders. I subscribe to the radical view that not only should we limit government growth but should review and reconsider all that government does and has done. Routinely. This is not something either party is willing to do.

    As can be seen in the comments, many are ready to denigrate Ryan’s plan but no one seems willing to offer a counter proposal. Obama refused the plan out of hand. We can hardly have a real discussion about government when one side or the other refuses to consider the other’s offering or put forward a plan of their own. Ryan proffered a plan and the response he got was a commercial showing him throwing an old lady off a cliff. Hardly a constructive discussion.

  38. David M says:

    @JKB:
    Ryan proposed ending Medicare, there was no constructive discussion to be had. The Democrats have a plan, it’s called the PPACA, or Obamacare. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

  39. JKB says:

    @David M:

    Except for taking $700 billion from the Medicare fund to cover up the cost increase of the PPACA, the PPACA has nothing to do with Medicare. One if for people over 65, the other is for those under 65.

    Ryan proposed altering Medicare, a constructive discussion would be acceptance that the program will collapse if not reformed then offer an alternative plan with the hope of a melding of plans so that the program doesn’t collapse and the elderly still have proper medical care. Can we at least get an acknowledgement that the program will collapse under unfunded benefit claims in the very near future?

  40. anjin-san says:

    So that leaves us with a decision- do we call SS and Medicare “welfare” and castigate those who receive it as moochers and looters?
    Do these programs “dissuade work and effort”?

    I’ve always found it interesting that wanting a return for the 35 years I have been paying into these programs makes me a parasite.

  41. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Ryan proposed altering Medicare

    Have you ever dealt with a senior citizens health and insurance issues in any depth?

  42. An Interested Party says:

    I, for one do, subscribe to the government corporations as evil premise but simply as a means to maintain vigilance. Government is Corporations are not something to be done away with but it is they are a danger to be controlled. It is They are forces and seek to take more and more from the citizen unless constantly restrained. Everything government does and wants corporations do and want to do should be questioned and carefully balanced against the threat it poses they pose to the freedom and liberty of citizens. I do not feel my views are that much different from many of our founders. I subscribe to the radical view that not only should we limit government corporate growth but should review and reconsider all that government does and has corporations do and have done. Routinely. This is not something either party is willing to do.

    Happy to be of help…

    Except for taking $700 billion from the Medicare fund to cover up the cost increase of the PPACA, the PPACA has nothing to do with Medicare. One if for people over 65, the other is for those under 65.

    You are either a liar or terribly misinformed…PPACA does help seniors by things like closing the doughnut hole in their prescription drug coverage…

    Can we at least get an acknowledgement that the program will collapse under unfunded benefit claims in the very near future?

    No one denies that Medicare is in trouble…but Ryan’s plan is like killing a sick patient rather than trying to heal said patient…

  43. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: Have you ever dealt with a senior citizens health and insurance issues in any depth?

    Ryan has and he got demonized. The Progs have offered nothing. Not exactly the best way to handle a crisis that is supposedly acknowledged. Or is your comment meant to point out the lack of courage and statesmanship when it comes to confronting the real problems of our country?

  44. JKB says:

    @An Interested Party: How does the corporation pose a threat to freedom and liberty of citizens except through crony alignment with Government?

    We get it, the Ryan plan is “bad” so what is the counter plan? If everyone acknowledges that Medicare is in crisis. If the Progs find the Ryan plan unacceptable. Then logic would dictate the proffering of an alternative plan. Then there can be an adult conversation.

  45. anjin-san says:

    Ryan has and he got demonized.

    I mean you as an individual. I wonder if you have an concept what a bad joke the idea of “vouchers” is.

  46. jukeboxgrad says:

    jkb:

    PPACA has nothing to do with Medicare. One if for people over 65, the other is for those under 65

    You should explain why you’re repeating this false, ignorant claim even though I already demonstrated to you, a few weeks ago, that it is false and ignorant.

    I can think of only a few possible explanations:

    A) You are stupid.
    B) You are dishonest.
    C) You are both stupid and dishonest.

    Are there any other possible explanations I should consider? As Interested Party said:

    You are either a liar or terribly misinformed

    I vote for C.

  47. David M says:

    @JKB: We absolutely do not have a Medicare problem, we have a problem with health care costs. Shifting costs to seniors while decreasing their bargaining power does nothing to help.

    Ryan and his plan are not part of the solution, we should discard ideas that can’t work. Single payer might be worth looking into though.

  48. superdestroyer says:

    @al-Ameda: ‘

    As the joke goes, the best way to make sure that social security and medicare do not survive is just continue to do what we are going now. Medicare/Medicaid spending has grown much faster than the economy has grown. Medicare spending is much higher than what was initially predicted when the program started.

    At least Ryan has proposed a program to limit Medicare spending instead of the Democrats program of spending more and trying to control costs by making reimbursement rates for many procedures below costs for that providers stop doing them.

  49. jukeboxgrad says:

    superdestroyer:

    At least Ryan has proposed a program to limit Medicare spending

    Which Ryan are you talking about? Ryan on what day? I guess you must mean the Paul Ryan who is trying to be on every possible side of this issue (which of course makes him the perfect mate for Mitt). This was nicely explained at Reason Magazine a couple of days ago:

    The GOP is the Party of Medicare … The GOP has now made its intentions clear: Defend Medicare at all costs, now and forever. … The GOP would have us believe that Medicare is both the biggest problem and the biggest success in American government, wrecking our public finances but also in need of saving from the current administration’s cuts.

    On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has declared that it was wrong for Obama to cut Medicare, and promised never to cut the program himself. Now Rep. Paul Ryan… has thoroughly bought into this argument. Ryan’s GOP convention speech tonight went all in on the defense of Medicare.

    … What we’re seeing is the war between two Paul Ryans. He has always been a conservative policy reformer as well as a good party soldier. But when the two have come into conflict, the party soldier has almost always won [note: this is reflected in the fact that Ryan voted to support GWB every single time GWB wrote a huge check that was unfunded]. … He made his name as an energetic Medicare reformer, someone who believed the program wasn’t working, was too expensive, and needed to be changed. But tonight, in the most prominent speech of his career, he chose to defend the idea that the program was not only worth preserving but worth defending from any and all of the other party’s cuts. … He’s helped join his party to the cause of mindlessly protecting the program he says he wants to reform.

    Another conservative who is honest enough to talk about Ryan’s doublespeak is Veronique de Rugy at NR:

    So How Are They Going to Reduce the Debt? … Last night … Ryan put debt and the risk that our country faces because of it at the center of his speech … “We need to stop spending money we don’t have.” … But how will Paul Ryan do that? … Last night … Ryan made it clear that his party is the party of Medicare. … solvency for Medicare is an unachievable dream when you are effectively promising voters that you will preserve the program for everyone today and tomorrow, and when you say that there would be no benefit cuts and/or no increase in the payroll tax, premiums, and other fees that fund the program.

    … Here is my previous post about the Ryan budget. … it is worth noting that under the Ryan plan, Medicare spending grows as fast as under the Obama budget.

    Notice also what she said yesterday:

    it is hard to reconcile the words Ryan used during his speech with the Medicare-reform plans he has pushed for in the last three years

    The GOP, as usual, is the party of Orwellian bullshit. The GOP Medicare position can be summarized as follows: ‘When Ryan’s budget includes $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending, this shows that the GOP is willing to make hard choices and tell voters the truth. And therefore Mitt putting Ryan on the ticket proves that Mitt himself is willing to make hard choices and tell voters the truth. However, if Obama reduces Medicare spending in any manner, this shows that Obama is trying to starve Granny. Also, Mitt is promising to not reduce Medicare spending, and Ryan has also adopted that position. This shows that the GOP is willing to make hard choices and tell voters the truth. Did I mention that already?’

  50. Tony W says:

    @JKB: You realize that you just argued for a government-managed single payer health system, right?

  51. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    How does the corporation pose a threat to freedom and liberty of citizens except through crony alignment with Government?

    The phrase “superfund” and “pollution zones” come to mind. As does the fact that maximizing shareholder equity — as it’s come to be understood — has no allegiance to local citizens or national citizens (something that Adam Smith noted as problem in “The Wealth of Nations”).

  52. @mattb:

    That is a pretty astonishing question, isn’t it? For what it’s worth, some thalidomide cases are being argued this week down in Australia.

    We dodged that one, if I remember correctly, because our drug approval process is “too slow.”

    In the United States, pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey M.D. withstood pressure from the Richardson-Merrell company and refused Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to market thalidomide, saying further studies were needed. This reduced the impact of thalidomide in United States patients. Although thalidomide was never approved for sale in the United States, millions of tablets had been distributed to physicians during a clinical testing program. It was impossible to know how many pregnant women had been given the drug to help alleviate morning sickness or as a sedative.

  53. LC says:

    I realize this is somewhat off topic, but to second and third other posts re Medicare vouchers:

    1. On what basis do Conservatives believe that there will be dozens of private insurance companies vying to provide comprehensive low-cost health insurance to people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s? About as many as are willing to provide flood insurance along the Mississippi and earthquake insurance in Calfornia?

    2. Ryan obviously hasn’t yet had to deal with elderly parents. Indeed, do any of the OTB bloggers have parents in their 60s? If so, ask them how “easy” it is to unravel the Medicare Adantage Plans and Medicare Part D coverage (from private insurance companies)? You need a full-time professional to sort things out.

    3. Do any of the OTB bloggers have parents in their 70s, 80s, or 90s? Have they ever gotten a call at 1AM from a distraught parent because the lights went out – only to discover that the electric bill wasn’t paid? Or if they do, have they left the chore of handling a parents’ finances and health care to a female sibling?

    I read somewhere that one’s abilities to make intelligent financial decisions starts to decline significantly after the age of 70, and my experience suggests that most, if not all, people over that age do slowly, if they are lucky, become less able to manage their finances.

    The Conservatives selling these policies don’t care about the elderly because they are all in the top 1% and can afford to hire people to take care of elderly relatives who can’t take of themselves. And they simply don’t give a darn about the elderly parents of the 99%. If their children and grandchildren (assuming they are alive) can’t care for their relatives, well, too bad.

    Re health insurance in general, this is for me a hot button issue because, as others have remarked, the whole point of an insurance pool is to spread risk – and the largest insurance pool in the U.S. is the entire population. Health care is unique in that it is independent of class, wealth, or age. Everybody needs some kind of medical attention at every stage of life. But the costs increase as one ages, so a pool that includes every citizen spreads out those costs to the maximum extent possible.

    What, exactly, do private insurance companies add to the mix? They do not provide health care. They are middlemen who take money from their customers, give part of that money to the health care providers, and use the rest of the money to pay their executives multi-million dollar salaries and give their “investors” profits. Does anybody, anybody, in the U.S. government earn what the head of, say, Aetna, earns in a year? In addition, in most states, 1-3 companies control the health insurance market. My Econ 101 defined that as a monopoly-oligopoly. Not exactly the free-wheeling free market of Conservative economic theory.

    Obama gave away the store to private insurance companies the day he entered office. He took single payer off the table and never fought for a public option. I don’t know if this was due to his lack of experience (nobody, apparently, ever told him that when you start to bargain, you start by asking for the moon and only back off slowly) or duplicity (he never really supported a public option). I don’t know how things would have turned out if he had gone for “Medicare for All”, perhaps phased in over a 20-year period, but it couldn’t have turned out worse than the mess he settled for.

  54. @LC: I have parents on the younger edge of that range and grandparents on the older edge. My parents are quite good at managing this type of thing, but I cannot imagine, say, my grandmother doing so. Even having said that, I concur about the complexity issue and the problems that it brings,

    I am not for Ryan’s voucher idea, and for most of the reasons you name.

    The notion that the market will fix these issues is a fantasy.

    In regards to Obama and Medicare for all: it was political impossible. And the chances for even a small public option died with Ted Kennedy, because once he passed it was impossible to get anything else through the Senate.

  55. Eric Florack says:

    So, we have here a number of examples, both personal and rhetorical, in which government did good things.

    And Hitler made the trains run on time. Right?

    Look, gang, this is actually fairly simple: When Obama said “You didn’t build that” what he was doing was making a statement of belief…Underneath this statement by Obama is the underlying belief that if you didn’t build that you don’t have a claim to it… that government is the one with the rightful claim to your property. This is nothing more and nothing less than a socialistic Marxist attack on private property, and individualism. Obama believes in the collective, not in the individual. What he’s really saying is that you don’t have any right to what you’ve created. The government does, the collective does.

    Remember, gang, this is the same one who told us the Free Market has never worked. Again, government, not free individuals.

  56. LC says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Re the political impossibility of the public option. Perhaps, even under the best of circumstances, that is an accurate analysis.

    My complaint is that Obama did not even try, and his weak support for even the single-payer option allowed Republicans to frame the debate.

    Imagine that he had proposed phasing in a Medicare-For-All over some long period of time – in order to preserve the jobs at private insurance companies and give investors a long time to get out. It would have significantly reframed the debate. Republicans, instead of focusing on killing the public option if not the entire bill, would have been faced with defending universal health care in terms of a program of which the vast majority of Americans, even Republicans, approve. The fallback position would then have become the public option.

    BTW, I was almost glued to C-SPAN during Obama’s first two years, and if I didn’t see every single committee hearing in both Houses on the health care plan, I saw pretty much all of them. Part of the enormous complexity of which Republicans complain is due to the numerous amendments proposed by Republicans and accepted by Democrats (as well as all kinds of other ifs, ands, and buts designed to protect the insurance industry). And I hold Dodd pretty much responsible for the public option debacle (e.g. Kennedy). He dithered and dithered and dithered all summer long, caving into Republican demands for, among other things, a bipartisan solution that Dodd must have known had not a single chance of being produced. In other words, he helped Republicans run out the clock.

    OT: As an aside about the health care debates, it was a Republican on Dodd’s committee who proposed requiring all Medicare recipients to prepare & file an advance health care directive (living will or, as Conservatives framed it, “death panel”). Two Republican Senators spent something like 30 solid minutes defending the requirement in one hearing. It failed a committee vote because, among other reasons, Democrats realized that creating an advance health care directive is not a trivial matter and might actually prevent people from getting enrolled in the first place.

  57. LC says:

    The Wall Street Journal’s lead he said/he said piece in the Review section today is called “Are Entitlements Corrupting Us?”

    Two interesting points: On the “yes” side, Eberstadt reports that “in any given year” from 1960-2010 entitlement spending was “roughly 8% higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat”.

    The other is the statistic, supported by both, that roughly 50% of American households receive or have received some sort of government support at some time (note: this includes unemployment benefits which are, in essence, paid for by workers in the form of forgone wages). But I would be willing to bet that many of those same families if asked if they were receiving the demonized “entitlements” would probably say no (just as Ryan has conveniently forgotten the Social Security death benefits that helped pay for his education).

    The argument about the loss of the “American character” reminded me of an article about entrepreneurship in Norway. It is, per capita, higher than it is in the U.S. – in spite of the fact that Norway is a quintessential “welfare state” in which Norwegians pay higher taxes than we do and have universal healthcare.

    One explanation given for the robustness of entrepreneurship is that Norwegians don’t have to worry about health care, day care, college costs or retirement. IOW, as long as they have a reasonable chance of being able to pay the ordinary bills of living (rent, mortgage, food, clothes), they can afford to take the risk of developing a business. There are, of course, several different kinds of reasons for people to go out on their own, but if one considers those factors which would prevent somebody from trying to create something new, surely such factors as access to health care, paying for schooling and retirement can be seen as inhibitions.

  58. An Interested Party says:

    And Hitler made the trains run on time. Right?

    Remember, gang, when you have to resort to Nazi comparisons, you’ve pretty much lost the argument…and, of course, when you are calling the President a “Marxist” you’ve not only lost the argument but proven yourself to be highly delusional…

  59. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    And Hitler made the trains run on time. Right?

    Remember, gang, this is the same one who told us the Free Market has never worked. Again, government, not free individuals.

    I think it was Hitler who said that the “Free Market has never worked.”
    Or maybe that was Betty White?

  60. anjin-san says:

    And Hitler made the trains run on time. Right?

    Actually, it was Mussolini. But I realize ignorance plays pretty well in the circles you run in.

  61. Liberty60 says:

    @Eric Florack:
    The most fundamental principle in Christianity (upon which America was founded, so I hear) is that people do not have sole claim to their possessions, but are obligated to give to those who have none.

  62. Eric Florack says:

    @An Interested Party: The comparison, is quite apt, really. You must think so, too?

    And yes, Mussolini as well…. but more popularly, Hitler.

    @Liberty60: But where is there any suggestion that government is a part of that process? There’s a passage in the Bible that I were to look up, where Christ himself suggests that we are to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar and unto God that which is God’s… The stronger rather think line between religion and government. Government, is not charity, It is force. I would suggest it’s time you learn the difference.

  63. Eric Florack says:

    @al-Ameda: You’re quite correct, in that Hitler said that as well about the free market. But just yesterday I posted a clip of Obama saying exactly the same thing. perhaps now, you have a clue as to why the comparison between the two is so apt.