Paul Ryan Cooks Up Electoral Disaster

Hochul in victory
Paul Ryan's plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system is bold. It's courageous. It's serious. At least, if you ask various talking heads and pundits -- something you should probably avoid doing. It's one of the great failings of the media that they avoid calling a spade a spade at every opportunity. If some pundit were to tell the truth about the Ryan budget -- what it really does, what it really costs, how necessary it actually is -- this would be "bias." And it would be bias because it would suddenly look very, very bad. TV journalism has now reached a low formerly occupied only by "entertainment news" shows, where they report movies' press packets nearly verbatim and pretend the movie studios aren't writing their "news" for them. Journalists report what people say about a policy proposal and somehow manage to avoid telling you what's in the proposal. Dems hate it, Republicans love it. Let's watch the fight! What's the fight actually about-- who cares?

In these cases, the only people you're going to get the skinny from are those who are paid to be biased -- or, at least, paid to be unafraid to appear biased. In this case, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman fits the bill.

What I hope regular readers of this blog understand by now is that the Ryan plan is, in fact, a self-serving piece of junk. It doesn't add up -- in fact, it would probably make the deficit bigger not smaller. And far from representing some kind of sacrifice of political interests in the service of the greater good, it’s a right-wing wish-list on steroids: sharp tax cuts for corporations and the rich, savage cuts in aid to the poor, and a gratuitous privatization of Medicare. And again, it's technically incompetent along the way.

So nobility and seriousness had nothing to do with it.

And there ya go then. Ryan pulled out a piece of paper the GOP has had laying around for a while now, scratched out the words "Christmas wishlist" at the top, and replaced that title with the words "TOUGH CHOICES!"

Et voila, a "serious" policy proposal. It's serious because you say it's serious and the news media will report that you think this is tremendously serious. You can barely blame the GOP for doing this, since our media have made it so easy to get away with. Never report facts unless it's absolutely unavoidable. Report only people's opinions about those facts. This is why, when some talking head is introduced as an "analyst" -- or worse, a "strategist" -- you should change the channel. What they have to say is all but worthless.

Luckily, this doesn't always pan out the way that Republicans would hope. Yes, they can get journalists to avoid reporting that a turd sandwich is, in fact, a turd sandwich. But they can't seem to convince anyone to actually take a bite. Sometimes, an idea is so bad, so obviously awful that it's immediately clear that this isn't something you want to have for lunch. For the record, it probably does take a lot of courage to drop a turd sandwich on a table and say, "Bon appetit!" But it's not the sort of courage anyone should be congratulated for.

And when that sandwich is so obviously inedible, no amount of media cowardice will hide that fact. There it is, out in the open, in plain view. And, my God, does it ever look awful.

[Talking Points Memo:]

Republicans are going to have plenty of questions about their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program tomorrow morning after Democrats romped to an improbable victory in a special election focused almost entirely on the issue.

Democrat Kathy Hochul lead 48-43 with over 83% of the votes counted and her victory looks to be a strong one -- the Associated Press called the race within an hour of the polls closing. Corwin underperformed in key GOP counties while Hochul's margins in Democratic areas were in line with the party's high water mark in the district from 2006, a wave year that swept the Republicans out of the majority in the House and Senate. The district is normally a safe seat for Republicans and few considered it vulnerable when Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) resigned over topless photos he posted in a Craigslist personal.

By making Medicare the issue in this election, the Democrat snatched the seat away from the Republican. While there's no shortage of people telling us we shouldn't read too much into this, I'm willing to bet that few Republicans are going to be eager to stand by the Ryan plan. And that means that an awful lot of candidates are going to be spending an awful lot of time avoiding talking about their voting record. And there are going to be a lot of Democrats putting a lot of effort into making sure that discussion in unavoidable.

Republicans served up the turd sandwich. Now they'll have to eat it.


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