KENOSHA — Paul Ryan, the smooth-if-not-always-substantive congressman, is the darling of the D.C. talk shows. The House Budget Committee chair, chosen by GOP House leaders to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, is the prime pitchman for the Wall Street lobbying agenda on everything from privatization of Social Security to tax cuts for the rich. During Congress’ spring break, he took his show on the road. ...
Outside the cloistered confines of Capitol Hill and the few blocks of southern Manhattan where he is a hero, the congressman had a hard time peddling his fiscal snake oil.
And in Kenosha, Ryan bombed.
When he claimed that he was serious about balancing the budget, someone in the crowd shouted: “That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office says.” And the room erupted with cheers for the correction of the congressman’s attempted deception.
When Ryan claimed his Republican budget plan would save Medicare and Medicaid, the packed room erupted with shouts of “Liar!”
When Ryan claimed that he didn’t want to replace Medicare with a voucher system but rather with “choices,” a woman piped up: “You can call it what you want, but don’t tell us that it’s still Medicare.”
When Ryan claimed that taxes needed to be cut for corporations and the wealthy in order to create jobs, he was greeted with a collective groan from hundreds of workers in a town that recently lost a major auto factory. One man yelled: “We’ve been cutting their taxes for 30 years and what did it get us? Outsourcing and layoff notices.” ...
So it went for Paul Ryan, the salesman for the Republican plan that may be selling in Washington — at least to Republicans — but is earning a thumbs down from his constituents in Wisconsin. Likewise, voters in other states have also been rejecting the plan at increasingly contentious town hall meetings of Republican members of Congress.
It may be true that congressmen can fool some of the people some of the time. But, for Ryan, the further he gets from Washington — where he has spent almost half his life as a congressional aide, conservative “think tank” staffer and member of the House — the harder it has been for the budget committee chairman to find buyers for his schemes. Not only does he want to restructure Medicare and Medicaid in order to shift money away from patient care and into the coffers of insurance companies, he also wants to gamble the retirement security of Americans with his campaign donors on Wall Street and to give more tax cuts to the rich, more tax breaks to the corporations, and more goodies to the bankers he served when he led the charge to get GOP votes for the 2008 bailout.
This is great, and I'd like to believe it's true, but... I don't know. Really, if people were dumb enough to believe that Republicans were going to save Medicare from the Democrats in the first place, it's hard to imagine that they won't continue to buy Republican snake oil.
And I don't see polls changing much, either. Where's the evidence? After all, once people make up their minds, they don't like to change them. Am I too pessimistic? Well, I hope so.