After reviewing the latest budget proposal penned by House Finance Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), an age-old question comes to mind: "What part of 'no' does this fellow not understand?"
In many ways -- and especially when it comes to his proposed reform of Medicare -- Ryan's latest iteration of the so-called "Roadmap for America's Future" looks a whole lot like his disastrous budget proposition of last year. And just in case you've forgotten exactly how disastrous that proposition was, allow us to remind you:
Ryan's FY 2012 budget proposal infuriated millions of older Americans last year. Indeed, the thunderously loud roar of criticism generated by Ryan's ill-conceived rewrite of Medicare last year shut down scores of town hall meetings all across the nation. The furious public outrage ignited by his FY 2012 budget plan so intimidated members of Congress that most of them ran for cover, abruptly canceling longstanding plans to meet with constituents. And those few brave politicos who, despite the furor, dared to proceed with their town hall meetings (FYI: Ryan was one of them) were greeted with shrill insults and verbal broadsides of the harshest variety.
So, here we go again -- same song, second verse.
Ryan's budget proposal reprises the controversial approach he took last year. It would not affect those who are now on Medicare (or those who soon will be). Rather, would-be beneficiaries who are now age 55 or younger would be moved from a traditional "fee for service" platform in which the government pays doctor and hospital bills to a voucher-like "premium support" framework wherein the government subsidizes purchases of health insurance.
Republicans contend such an approach would inject a much needed dose of serious competition into an otherwise wasteful health care system, ultimately resulting in lower costs and providing seniors with more options. But Democrats say Ryan's proposed system would cut costs much too steeply and end up delivering to the nation's growing population of elderly people an ever-shrinking menu of options and an ever-increasing menu of higher out-of-pocket costs.
Ryan and the House Republicans know full well that his plan is going nowhere. While it may – and probably will – clear the House, it is dead on arrival when it reaches the Senate. In fact, it is highly unlikely that any budget proposal, Democrat or Republican, will clear the full Congress this year – at least not before the results of the November elections are known.
Ryan's proposal is nothing more than a political gauntlet of sorts, an armored glove tossed down on the marbled floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican challenge to Democrats. It is a line drawn in the sand, a boundary separating conservatives from liberals. And contrary to what some pundits say, it isn't even a starting point for upcoming negotiations.
It is what it is – a clearly articulated vision of the ideological differences that separate the nation's two major political parties.
Info: To access the Ryan proposal, please go to http://tinyurl.com/7z74o2c