“Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”
— former Rep. Alan Grayson, commenting on the “Republican health care plan,” September, 2009
Alan Grayson was roundly condemned for his highly critical remarks during the health care reform debate, which now seems like a decade ago. But thanks to Paul Ryan we can see that Grayson’s sin was not that he inaccurately pegged Republican philosophy, but that he was simply a little premature in doing so.
Make no mistake about it: Paul Ryan, and by extension Republicans in the House—remember that Ryan was given extraordinary power to speak for them on budget issues—are now on record as lobbying for the destruction of Medicare and Medicaid as we know them. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has tiptoed in and called it a “credible proposal.”
Therefore, it’s now clear just what the Republican health care philosophy is, in terms of the non-wealthy elderly, the poor, and the disabled. But don’t take my or Alan Grayson’s word for it. Listen to Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of Obama’s Fiscal Responsibility Commission.
They released a letter that criticized House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan’s plan for largely exempting defense spending—imagine that!—and for its lack of tax increases, a necessity, they said, for “broad bipartisan agreement.” They continued:
As a result, the Chairman’s plan relies on much larger reductions in domestic discretionary spending than does the Commission proposal, while also calling for savings in some safety net programs — cuts which would place a disproportionately adverse effect on certain disadvantaged populations.
Those “certain disadvantaged populations” don’t put much jingle in the GOP collection plate, so why should they give a damn about them?
Even though we know that Paul Ryan’s plan will not become law—at least for the next two years—we do know the details of what Tea Party-drunk Republicans plan to implement if they ever do get the power they crave:
• Medicare, the only thing that stands between some older folks and suffering or death, would become a voucher program, one that would leave those without adequate wealth coverage without adequate health coverage.
Essentially, Ryan’s plan would require future senior citizens to navigate the private insurance market in search of a plan they could afford on the vouchers they are given. If the coverage they need exceeds the voucher amount—a certainty, thanks to the way the plan is structured—tough shit.
Of course, the wealthy need not worry. They get the voucher and, partly thanks to Ryan’s generous tax policy for the wealthy—a reduction of the top rate to 25%—they will have plenty of dough to make up the difference between the voucher and the cost of the insurance.
• Medicaid becomes a block grant program in which states would essentially get to determine how they spend the money the federal government gives them. As Newt Gingrich admitted, this would inevitably mean that some states would short-change the poor, the elderly, and the disabled on Medicaid by making it harder to obtain benefits and by reducing those benefits. There isn’t any doubt about that. Just look at what Republicans in the various states are doing now in times of economic stress, times in which benefits are needed most.
Look, I don’t completely blame Ryan and other Republicans for proposing tax cuts for the wealthy while ending health care entitlements for everyone else. That would be like blaming great white sharks for leg-munching in bloody water. It’s what they do.
About the Tea Party Republicans, Ryan told a reporter on Tuesday:
…you look at these people, these new people who just got here. None of them came here for a political career. They came here for a cause. This is not a budget, this is a cause.
“A cause.” Spoken like a bona fide devotee of Ayn Rand. Rep. Ryan requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, according to New York magazine, which explains a lot about his budget proposal. Years ago, he told a group gathered to honor Rand,
The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.
To be a real Randian, as Jonathan Chait put it, one has to believe that,
the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.
That’s the Tea Party Republican definition of those “certain disadvantaged populations” that Bowles and Simpson mentioned. They’re “looters and moochers.”
With the advent of the Tea Party and its hostile takeover of the Republican Party, Randian nonsense is now the dominant economic philosophy controlling the actions of GOP congressional leadership. And I suppose the final seal of approval was given to Ryan on Tuesday, when Glenn Beck said he loved Ryan.
And, by the way, Ryan loved him back.
So, while I don’t put all the blame on Republican sharks for their unseemly ravenous carnivorism, I will blame Democrats if they don’t put the rope Ryan has given them around the necks of every single Republican in the country who won’t denounce the plan to kill Medicare and Medicaid.
Alan Grayson may have put it somewhat indelicately, but he essentially got it right:
The Republican health care plan is, “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”