Public Turning Against Ryan Plan

The GOP seems to be losing the public relations battle over deficit reduction.

As the nation continues to absorb the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, the focus on fiscal issues has been lost for the moment. It will return, however, and when it does Republicans may find that they are losing the public relations battle over entitlement reform and deficit reduction:

A plurality of voters still have no opinion about Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s long-term budget-cutting plan, but opposition has increased over the past several weeks. By a near two-to-one margin, they don’t like his proposal for tackling spiraling Medicare costs.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 26% of Likely U.S. Voters continue to favor the budget proposal by Ryan that claims to cut federal spending by $4 trillion over the next decade. But that’s unchanged from a month ago.

Now, however, 34% oppose Ryan’s proposal, up from 27% in the previous survey. A sizable 40% still don’t know enough about the plan to have any opinion of it.

These numbers would seem to suggest that there is still a chance for the GOP to make its case to the public, but the trend should be disheartening considering that it comes after a two week Congressional recess during which these issues were discussed intensely. More importantly, though, it seems clear that the public is highly negative on one of the central provisions of Ryan’s plan, Medicare reform:

Just 21% of all voters favor the plan for changing Medicare that is included in the Ryan budget proposal. Thirty-nine percent (39%) oppose that plan. But again 40% are not sure about it. The question did not offer any specifics about Ryan’s proposal which includes allowing individuals to purchase private health insurance as an alternative and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67. Earlier polling showed that voters overwhelmingly believe any proposed changes in Medicare should require voter approval before they can be implemented.

That last part isn’t going to happen, of course, but I think it’s a measure of just how difficult substantial revisions to programs like Medicare and Social Security (and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid) are going to be to get through Congress. For better or worse, the public has become used to these programs in their present form, and they mostly like them. Changing them is going to require convincing the public that it’s necessary, and that they won’t lose out under a system, and that they might even be better off. So far, as Jazz Shaw notes over at Hot Air, that isn’t being done:

From the beginning it was obvious that getting these types of fiscally responsible changes put through was going to require a massive grassroots educational effort to get voters informed about the cliff we’re currently zooming toward. But if these numbers hold, the message isn’t getting out there. That will not only severely endanger any chances of a vote succeeding in Congress, but could shorten the political lifespan of those supporting the changes.

I’m not even sure its possible to have a rational debate about these issues in today’s political environment, but someone at least needs to give it a try. Otherwise, this chance for reform is going to slip through our fingers and we’ll just continue down the path toward a future where change will be both unavoidable and more painful. Once again, the GOP is failing at public relations.




FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    Once again, the GOP is failing at public relations.

    Or perhaps the plan just blows, and most people are smart enough to see that. The GOP is a hell of a lot better at PR then the Democrats are, so you will have to do a little better in the spin department.

  2. Fog says:

    Twinning a cut in Medicare with more tax cuts for the rich probably torpedoed any chance the GOP had for a dispassionate debate on entitlements. It reminds too many people how we got the deficit in the first place.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    It is hard to ever do well in public relations when the Democrats can just say”we will tax the crap out of the other guy and give you the money.”

    Do Americans really want to pay an additional $1 trillion in taxes? of course not, what Americans want is for the other guy to pay an additional $1 trillion in taxes so that they will get the benefits.

    The real question for American is what happens when less than half of Americans pay any income taxes and more than 50% of Americans are totally dependent of a government check. My guess is that the private sector will continue to decline and corruption will become rampant in the U.S. (much like in current day Greece or Italy) in order to avoid taxes.

  4. reid says:

    I agree with anjin-san. The Republicans found the limit of their turd-polishing skills.

  5. Stan says:

    I don’t expect anybody on the right to actually read the literature on medical economics in scholarly journals or to pay attention to the difference between medical costs here and elsewhere in the developed world, but if they do they’ll find that the only way to control our medical bill is through governmental action to lower the cost of medical care and hospitalization. As shown by Uwe Reinhardt (in Health Affairs, Vol. 22 (3)) and others, including the Congressional Budget Office, Canada and western Europe keep prices low by using the monopsony power of the buyers of health care (the government in France and Canada, health funds in most other countries) to limit payments to providers. This is tough on the providers, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals, but it has to be done if we’re to avoid spending ever higher percentages of our national income on health care. At the same time, limits have to be placed on what procedures are covered by health insurance, particularly procedures that prolong life slightly at immense cost. This is tough on us old folks, but it has to be done.

    The idea that more “skin in the game” on the part of consumers will control medical costs is ludicrous. It’s pure theory, without any empirical backing. I’m open to argument, but unless somebody can cite real world examples in which Ryan’s plan works, I’ll continue to think it’s simply another way to keep taxes low for the Republican base.

  6. Too many voters believe in a free lunch. We can have all the spending and still not raise their taxes. Until that changes, real reform will be impossible.

    And if the PIIGS are any example, it’s not going to change until it’s forced by a refusal by lenders to continue extending credit.

  7. Tano says:

    Changing them is going to require convincing the public that it’s necessary, and that they won’t lose out under a system, and that they might even be better off. So far, as Jazz Shaw notes over at Hot Air, that isn’t being done:

    The reason it is not being done is that it is not true. Change of some type may well be necessary, but change of the Ryan type is not the only option, is an option in which most people certainly WILL lose out, and will not be better off.

    The problem is not that people don’t understand or accept the need for reform. The problem is with this specific proposal. Its a terrible plan.

  8. steve says:

    To echo some of the thoughts above, there are a few things in the Ryan plan that should make it unpalatable. First, while it is supposedly a plan to cut the debt, it cuts taxes on the highest income class, and that class only. I am unaware of any other tax cut in out history that affected just the wealthier class.

    By putting Medicare into private insurance, Ryan increases total medical spending. Private insurance pays more for care than does Medicare. Physicians are leaving Medicare because it does not pay enough, yet we are putting seniors into a plan that will cost more. This just means that more and more seniors will not be able to afford care. It would have made more sense, though it would be more difficult, to address medical costs.

    The cutoff at age 55, along with the tax cut, sharply segregate this plan by age and income group. While this may make it play well with the elderly and rich, it leaves everyone else paying more for less. At some point this has to be hard to sell, especially as it is clear that these are the two groups that have done very well over the last 10-20 years.


  9. john personna says:

    For Stan:

    Renewed calls for increased cost sharing (more “skin in the game”) reflect the belief that insurance promotes wasteful health spending. However, it has been recognized for almost thirty years that the conventional insurance theory that supports this belief … does not apply to all types of health care. Nyman quotes Mark Pauly as having pointed out that it was only intended to apply to “routine physician’s visits, prescriptions, dental care, and the like” and that “the relevant theory, empirical evidence and policy analysis for moral hazard in the case of serious illness has not been developed.”

    Theories of Health Insurance

  10. And they ate their minstrels rich.

  11. john personna says:

    Geez Charles, zero content.

    I guess we can never tax anyone, because the rich might get some of the burden.

  12. reid says:

    Boo hoo, the rich have really been suffering in this country. What a ridiculous meme.

  13. Stan says:

    Thanks for the reference, john personna. Putting it bluntly, the Ryanistas are lying by omission when they talk about Ryan’s plan for Medicare. If his plan controls medical costs by giving the elderly “skin in the game”, it does so by forcing them to leave serious medical problems untreated. It also forces them to buy insurance policies that are bound to be expensive, and to somehow acquire the legal and medical knowledge to know what they’re buying. But it could be worse. We could have Soylent Green.

  14. anjin-san says:

    I associate with a number of rich people on a daily basis. I can assure you they are not being eaten, or that they are even suffering unduly. Charkes, I would like to think you are not a fool, but regurgitating fox talking points chapter and verse certainty makes you sound like one.

  15. Jib says:

    Americans pay a huge tax on health care, 16% of GDP compared to around 8% for everyone else. We pay twice as much per capital as any other industrial nation for health care. $6000 vs $3000.

    This is a huge drag on the economy. As someone who has be a part of running startups for 15 years, I can tell you it is becoming a real issue. You can finesse salary with stock options etc but health care has to be paid and it is very expensive and it goes up ever year and your people almost never need it. But you have to offer it, people will work for less money and more stock but they have to have health care or they wont take the job.

    5% of the people spend 50% of the money in health care. You way over pay every year unless you unlucky and something happens and then you spend way more than you pay into the system. It is a stupid reverse lottery.

    With the rise of the cloud and cheap computing we are now at the point that the largest check I write every month if for health care. Think about that, a startup with limited capital has to spend its biggest single chunk just to make sure your covered in the case anything happens. And all we get is this stupid political debate by people bought and paid for by the health industry (if you where in a biz that every man, woman and child paid $6000 a year to, would you want that number to be reduced?)

    What we are doing is not working. I am tired of this s$%t. Bring on Canadian health care, bring on Euro care, we cant afford to spend $6000 per person any more, lets cut it in half.

    And dont tell me that if we have Euro care that your 85 year old grandma will have to wait to get her knee replacement surgery. BFD! 85 years should not get their knees replaced, that is the whole problem. Every man, woman and child in this country has to pay over $3000 extra a year just so 85 years old dont have to wait to get a new knee?

    Jesus, and you people wonder why the economy is not improving.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    And they ate their minstrels rich.

    Much better to eat the elderly and the poor instead…

  17. steve says:

    “And they ate their minstrels rich”

    Yet the wealthy now have a larger percentage of national income than ever before. They are the only group that have seen real growth. Can you not see the dissonance between complaining about how the rich are getting soaked, while they see such growth? Also, the richest of the rich have actually been seeing their tax burden fall for the last ten years.


  18. john personna says:

    What we are doing is not working. I am tired of this s$%t. Bring on Canadian health care, bring on Euro care, we cant afford to spend $6000 per person any more, lets cut it in half.

    That’s pretty much where I’ve ended up. It’s getting really sad, as we insist not on success, but on failing in our particular way.

  19. reid says:

    Well, we can’t learn anything from other countries because they’re socialists or worse, and it would undermine our exceptionalism. Such is the thinking of enough of the people in this country and the idiots they put into office that I can’t imagine ever making a real, positive change to our system like Jib describes. Look at how much stupidity erupted over the ACA, which was really quite mild and full of compromises. It boggles my mind. We’ll never get a single payer system.

  20. mantis says:

    And they ate their minstrels rich.

    And there was much rejoicing.

  21. Steve Verdon says:

    I’m not even sure its possible to have a rational debate about these issues in today’s political environment, but someone at least needs to give it a try.

    Yeah because wasting time is always a good thing.

  22. Socrates says:

    The very first comment has it right. This isn’t about the GOP failing at public relations. The Ryan plan is getting exactly the fate it deserves.

  23. mattb says:

    It is hard to ever do well in public relations when the Democrats can just say”we will tax the crap out of the other guy and give you the money.”

    What this points out is how difficult it is to articulate policy. Remember that for the last four years, the Republican response has largely been “It will destroy the country and your security” to most major Democratic/Omaba attempts to explain policy.

    It seems to me that now that it’s the Republican’s turn to have to try to explain policy, the shoe has been placed on the opposite foot and now they have to deal with “It will destroy the country and your security.”

    Actually selling policy is far harder than selling easy arguements against policy.

  24. superdestroyer says:

    Anyone who refers to Medicare, Medicaid, or the coming ACA as insurance is incorrect. All of those programs are just cost-transference programs.

    Having “skin-in-the-game” means that if people want more benefits and more entitlements then they pay more for them instead of just transferring the costs to others. What the current system does it allow seniors and the poor to transfer costs to others without any consideration of the cost-benefit analysis or the effectiveness.

    Having skin-in-the-game means that if healthcare workers are going to have to take a pay cut then everyone else is going to have to pay more instead of transferring costs to others.

    It does not help small business to save $3K per employee per year in insurance if they just pay $3K per employee per year more in taxes to fund a government program.

  25. Axel Edgren says:

    Doug, why are you pretending Ryan’s plan is the only available one just because it is the first one presented? Getting a bit desperate? Shock doctrine?

    Use your head.