Rep. Paul Ryan released a video about Medicare yesterday that you can watch on The Daily Caller. It is a compelling and substantive argument about the nature of the fiscal problems we face and the solutions he and other Republicans are offering. It’s almost certainly doomed. Unless his allies step forward quickly to bolster his points with an effective political argument, Ryan’s ideas will die a swift death.
Already, they’re showing signs of expiring. Contrast the Ryan video, which is measured and essentially defensive, with the attacks against it. Since the moment Ryan’s plan appeared, Democrats have argued that his goal is to “end” Medicare. This is false. Ryan’s plan would change Medicare. It would reduce funding for the program relative to its current (and unsustainable) baseline. It would not end Medicare, and it’s a lie to claim otherwise. Yet that’s what reputedly serious Democrats and their allies in the press are saying every day.
And saying so in ways that are florid and reckless even by the low standards of contemporary political debate. Former president Bill Clinton told an audience this week that Ryan’s scheme would cause the elderly “to get sicker and die quickly. Or they will be poorer because they’ll have to spend so much of their money on health care.” Rep. Steve Rothman of New Jersey issued a press release, dutifully reprinted by media outlets in his state, that made the same claim.
Former DNC staffer Erica Payne, meanwhile, released a video showing a Republican politician shoving a struggling old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff to her death. The spot ends with a screen shot of Paul Ryan’s office phone number.
Not one leading Democrat raised a word of objection.
How are Republicans responding to this onslaught? Most aren’t. Those who’ve bothered to defend Medicare reform strike a curiously passive tone. Here’s Rep. Ryan himself, speaking this week: “There is a Medicare story to be told here and that Medicare story is that Democrats have chosen to shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue to try to scare seniors…We have a year and a half to get the facts out.”
That’s fine, and true as far as it goes. But are complaints about demagoguery actually going to convince voters that the Ryan plan is worth trying? Probably not.
In fact there are plenty of things Republicans could be saying on behalf of the Ryan plan. Here are a few of them:
— Medicare in its current form is unsustainable. Follow the president’s course and it will collapse, leaving tens of millions of seniors without health coverage.
— America itself is going bankrupt, and soon. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress know this, but don’t care. If they cared, they’d be doing something about it.
— For nearly 100 years, this country has been the world’s greatest power. Thanks to the cowardice and shortsightedness of the current Congress and administration, the American Era is coming to an end. This is a self-inflicted disaster of historic proportions.
— America is secure because we can afford the strongest military in history. Once the U.S. economy is no longer dominant, we are no longer safe, and the world becomes chaotic. If you want another world war, run up unsustainable debts.
Are these arguments aggressive? Absolutely. Over the top? Maybe a little. But they’re far truer than the attacks against Paul Ryan’s ideas about Medicare reform. And unless Republicans start employing them — unless they stop cowering and start sounding the alarm without apology or embarrassment — they will lose the debate for good.
Tucker Carlson is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Caller. Neil Patel is the Publisher of The Daily Caller and was previously Chief Policy Advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.