The Paul Ryan budget plan has so far been a disaster for Republicans. Polling shows that the central idea (what pundits and talking heads call "brave" and "serious") to end Medicaid and Medicare through privatization is extremely unpopular. An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 78% oppose privatizing Medicare (with 65% "strongly" opposed) and 59% feel the same about Medicaid. Worse for the GOP, a vast majority of Americans back what Republicans see as sacrilege -- 72% back increasing taxes on households making $250,000 or more annually.
So, with Republicans being your typical finger-in-the-wind types and the prevailing wind direction being so obvious, the solution should be clear, right? Find which way the crowd is marching, then grab a flag and march in front of them. That's "leadership."
Except there's one little problem. According to the report, "Support for raising taxes on the wealthy falls below a majority in only a few groups, e.g., people who call themselves 'very' conservative, conservative Republicans and strong supporters of the Tea Party political movement."
So, the majority oppose pretty much everything the Ryan plan stands for, but the base loves it. As a result, the Republican Party has become scatterbrained on the issue. Do they grab a flag and march in front of their base or do they do it in front of everyone else? What to do... What to do...
Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.
On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation's finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama "excoriated us" for a proposal to privatize Medicare.
That search could start, Cantor said, with a list of GOP proposals that would save $715 billion over the next decade by ending payments to wealthy farmers, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and expanding government auctions of broadcast spectrum to telecommunications companies, among other items.
Good move. Stand with the majority of Americans. Or, at least, stand somewhere within shouting distance of their neighborhood....
But wait, without those 'baggers and talk radio types, can they really win?
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office sharply disputed on Wednesday night a report that GOP leaders are abandoning an attempt to dramatically overhaul Medicare as a part of budget negotiations.
On the eve of bipartisan, bicameral debt and deficit reduction talks with the White House, the Washington Postreported that Republican leadership is ready to give up on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to gradually turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Not true, said Cantor's chief spokesman, Brad Dayspring. "Eric made very clear that our position is the Ryan budget which -- as you know -- assumes a debt limit increase and includes Medicare, Medicaid and $715 billion in mandatory savings," Dayspring said. "Whether the Democrats will agree to the proposals we've outlined is yet to be seen, but that is our starting point so we don't continue to kick the can down the road and make real cuts and real reforms this year."
Back and forth, back and forth. It's like a sitcom where a teenage girl can't decide which boy she wants to take her to the prom.
And the choice really boils down to a decision over which way the GOP wants to screw themselves; go with the majority and lose the base (who may make the difference in tight races) or go with the base and lose the majority?
Apparently, the decision has been made -- they don't have to decide. All they have to do is pay close attention to who they're talking to and tell them what they want to hear. Then, when it comes time to vote, complain about the way it turned out.
That is, complain depending on who's listening.