Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney's Choice

Romney’s VP pick, Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, has a plan for Medicare, one of the most popular programs in U.S. history: convert it from a guaranteed single payer coverage plan to one based on vouchers where the risk of rising costs is shifted to seniors. The substantive difference—Paul Ryan’s plan guarantees you a voucher, while the current program guarantees you health care services.

Some have applauded his plan as one that at least attempts to deal with Medicare’s very real financial unsustainability. But there are two areas where the credibility of Congressman Ryan’s approach as a good faith effort to save Medicare collapses. First, it was Congressman Ryan’s economic philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism and de-regulation that led to the financial crisis of 2008 that has accelerated the Medicare crisis. Second, Congressman Ryan refuses to consider the revenue side of the solution to financing Medicare and other entitlements. After the collapse of the financial sector in 2008-09 when federal revenues dropped by nearly $500 billion, Ryan still maintained, “we do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.” Taking that position, while advocating additional tax cuts for high income Americans, does not constitute a good faith effort to solve Medicare’s funding problem.

With his own failed economic philosophy of laissez-faire deregulation and total disregard for the revenue side of the fiscal balance, Congressman Ryan’s plan doesn’t look very brave given the constituency he is trying to please. It looks like what it is: part the ideological war against the Great Society and the New Deal. Is Mitt Romney himself part of this ideological war against programs that give middle class Americans not only concrete medical and income benefits, but intangible benefits of a sense of security and peace of mind? If not, then why did he pick Paul Ryan as his running mate?

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