Suicide by Wonk

Sometimes It’s Simple: When I heard pollster Pat Caddell–who usually blasts Dems these days–say on Saturday that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan was a near-suicidal act leading Republicans “off the cliff,” my initial instinct was to agree, especially regarding Ryan’s proposed Medicare changes. Here Republicans were winning the grinding debate over relatively small cuts in the federal discretionary budget. Democrats–the party that desperately needs to convince voters it can be trusted to get rid of $1.6 trillion annual deficits–seemed to be reflexively defending government bloat, measuring success by the amount of spending preserved the way antipoverty activists measure success by the number of people on the dole. 

But I’ve now read David Brooks (who thinks Ryan’s proposal is a “pivotal moment of truth” that “set the standard of seriousness”) and Ezra Klein (who thinks “Ryan gets to set the parameters of the debate. He won’t achieve all of what he wants, or even much of it. But he’ll get partway there”)  and Ross Douthat  (“brutally honest with the American people”)  and Reihan Salam (it starts “an interesting conversation”)- and, having read all that, and the Medicare provisions in Ryan’s plan, I have to reluctantly conclude that it’s … a near-suicidal act that will lead Republicans off the cliff. Voters like Medicare, for good reason. It provides them with more security than the alternatives. The threat to Medicare is a big reason why they reject Obamacare. So the GOP strategy is to replace Medicare with something that looks a lot like the private insurance exchanges in Obamacare. Huh? …