Apr 20th 2011

Rumor That Congressman Paul Ryan is Really a Democratic Sleeper Agent

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
Rumors spread over the weekend that Republican Budget Chair Paul Ryan is really a Democratic sleeper agent. The story goes that Ryan was recruited by Democratic operatives as a young man and agreed to assume a cover as a deeply conservative Republican. He was hired as a Legislative aide for Conservative Senator Sam Brownback and subsequently wrote speeches for former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

Then, in 1998, he won a seat in Congress as a Conservative Republican and began to establish credibility as a Far Right economic conservative.

If the rumor is correct, all of this toiling in the Conservative vineyard was undertaken to develop the credibility he needed to herd his fellow Republicans into a political box canyon where they could be ambushed by waiting Democrats.

Last week this deep undercover operation finally succeeded, when Ryan actually convinced virtually every Republican to vote to end Medicare.

All right, there isn't really a rumor that Ryan is a Democratic sleeper agent. But the result is likely to be the same.

Last Friday, Congressman Paul Ryan and his self-described "Young Gun" colleague, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, got most of their colleagues to willingly jump off a political cliff.

When the political history of this period is written, the Medicare vote held last week will go down as the turning point that doomed Republican chances to keep control of the House in 2012. For Democrats, it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.

In fact, in recent history, I don't remember a major Party in the United States making such a catastrophic political error.

Maybe their own ideology has blinded them from the fact that polling shows that almost two thirds of the American electorate is
strongly opposed to cutting - much less eliminating - Medicare as a means of reducing the deficit. And that is before the voters understand in concrete terms what the Republican budget plan means to their own family's economic security.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if the Republican budget were to become law, it would:

Increase actual overall costs of providing health care to Medicare beneficiaries from around $15,000 per person to $20,000 per person - largely because it would replace Medicare's relatively efficient public insurance program with more costly and inefficient private insurance. For example, only about 3% of Medicare funds go to administrative costs rather than paying for medical care. Private insurance plans, on the other hand, pay shareholders, CEO's, administrators, and sales forces with from 15% to 30% of every premium dollar.

Cost each senior $6,400 in increased health care costs compared to the current system. The proposal eliminates Medicare's guarantee of health care coverage, and substitutes a voucher for part of a private insurance premium. CBO estimates that the plan will leave the senior on the hook for 61% of health care costs. The Republican proposal replaces Medicare with "coupon-care".

Even though seniors will pay a great deal more, the government will only save about $600 per Medicare recipient. The higher costs of private insurance will gobble up the rest.
So in other words, the Republicans voted for a plan that would:

End Medicare and its guaranteed health care benefits.

Replace it with a voucher that requires seniors to go out and find coverage from private insurance companies.

Increases their actual spending on health care by $6,400 each, compared to the current system.

Use these cuts in Medicare spending to give the rich another $200,000 tax break.

That is a political disaster.

In voting to eliminate Medicare - and for the entire Republican budget plan - Republicans in Congress have ignored five basic political facts:

1). It's one thing to prevent people from achieving their aspirations. It's quite another to take something away that they already have - to rip something precious from their hands.
People love Medicare. They love the guarantee that their health care will be covered. They love that they don't have to cope with choosing between private plans, benefit limits, and the fear that their premiums can be arbitrarily increased, or their coverage will be denied.
The polling is clear. In a CNN poll early this month 90% of respondents said they thought funding for Medicare should stay the same or be increased (75% said the same for Medicaid).

Last month a CBS News poll found 76% unwilling to cut Medicare to balance the budget.
The thing that makes it so astonishing, is that many same House Republicans who voted to eliminate Medicare, were actually elected last fall claiming that the Democrat backed Affordable Health Care Act cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars.
They implied that the new health care law cut Medicare benefits. Of course that was not at all true, it actually increased benefits by eliminating the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage. The cuts were to insurance industry subsidies - not benefits.
But no matter, the Republicans certainly understood the power of the claim that the Democrats voted to cut Medicare. Now Republicans are not just planning to cut Medicare, they voted to end Medicare. Astonishing.

The Democratic slogan next year is simple:
Hands off My Medicare.

2). People don't think of Medicare as just another government program - it's health insurance for which they have paid their entire working lives. They think they are
owed Medicare benefits.

3). People view the notion that the Republicans should raise out-of-pocket health care costs to seniors to give a tax break to the wealthy as just plain wrong.
As President Obama said in his speech last Wednesday, "They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That's not right."

When you're on the wrong side of an issue that can be framed in simple right and wrong terms, you're in deep political trouble.

4). Republicans will be subject to the charge that they have taken this outrageous vote because they have been bought and paid for by the private insurance companies that will get their hands on the Medicare trust fund - and by the very wealthiest Americans who benefit from their tax cuts.

It doesn't help the Republican case that over his career, Congressman Paul Ryan has received $2.1 million from health and insurance interests.

The question of motive goes to the most important issue in politics: "whose side are you on?" This vote sends a clear political message that Republicans are not on the side of seniors or future retirees. Instead they are on the side of the Wall Street/CEO class and insurance companies.

5). Finally, their Medicare vote solves the Democrats' major 2012 demographic problem. Obama and the Democrats will do well among younger cohorts of the electorate. But Obama lost seniors by 8% in 2008 - and Democrats lost seniors by 21% in 2010.
The Presidential campaign will be decided by states with relatively old electorates - Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Michigan to name a few.
We know from history that Democrats can win while losing seniors by 8%. They can't win while losing seniors by 21%.

If they execute well, Democrats can use the Medicare issue to get a majority of seniors in the next election - virtually dooming any chance the Republicans have of gaining control of the Senate or the Presidency - and massively increasing the odds that Democrats will once again take control of the House.

Before the House vote on the Republican budget last Friday, Democratic-leaning organizations distributed signs with their new slogan: "Hands off My Medicare." They might as well have read: "Go Ahead…. Make My Day."

Robert Creamer's book "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win" is available on Amazon.com.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "