Rep. Paul Ryan: Left 'Coming Unglued' over Medicare Reform

Thursday, 16 Jun 2011 10:44 AM

By David A. Patten and Kathleen Walter

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The political left is “coming unglued a bit,” embattled Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview in which he also criticizes a recent CBO analysis of his plan as “deeply flawed.”

Ryan also contends that the AARP retiree organization has been “frightening seniors” over his proposals to fix Medicare, which experts agree is on a glide path to certain insolvency.

Ryan’s comments came as part of an exclusive interview conducted Wednesday as part of a special report in the August edition of Newsmax magazine, examining how the entitlement-reform debate in Washington will impact the 2012 elections.

Editor's Note: Sign Up Now to Get the Full Paul Ryan Newsmax Interview — Click Here Now.

AARP, which claims more than 40 million seniors, recently published an article titled “Ryan’s Medicare Voucher Plan Draws Democratic Opposition.” The article quotes Democratic legislators as saying Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it.”

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The Ryan plan for entitlement reform would apply only to those now younger than 55. Those 55 and above would see no change.

The AARP cited a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that under Ryan’s proposals the average 65-year-old retiree would pay 68 percent of their Medicare coverage costs by 2030, compared with the current 25 percent.

That CBO analysis is “deeply flawed,” Ryan tells Newsmax.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, says the CBO failed to acknowledge that lower-income beneficiaries would receive an additional $7,800 to cover their costs under his proposal, which the House endorsed.

The CBO also ignored cost savings from enhanced competition in the private marketplace that his plan would generate, he says.

But the larger failing in the CBO analysis, Ryan tells Newsmax, is that it compares his plan with the level of benefits a recipient would receive under the current Medicare system — a system that the CBO itself has admitted is on a completely unsustainable path, and therefore cannot survive in coming years its current form.

“The status quo is unsustainable,” Ryan tells Newsmax. “It’s a myth. So it’s really sort of a fiscal fantasy to compare any plan against some future that everybody says will not exist.

“Medicare is going bankrupt,” Ryan says. “And what we’re trying to do is save the system, and give senior citizens choice on how they get benefits delivered to them in a Medicare system that works a lot like the benefits I have as a federal employee and a member of Congress.

“The difference is President Obama doesn’t do a thing to really save the system from bankruptcy, but more importantly, Obamacare raids half a trillion dollars from Medicare, and puts a panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of price controlling and rationing Medicare.

“So government-run and government-rationed Medicare is what the Obama plan is,” Ryan says. “We get rid of the rationing, stop the raid, and we give future seniors a choice in how their benefits will be delivered to them.”

Asked point-blank whether he feels the AARP is scaring seniors, Ryan replied: “Yes, I think they are, I think they’re frightening seniors. And I think [they] are showing their political stripes a little bit more. I think AARP, which helped pass Obamacare, which moves toward a government healthcare system . . . that’s more the philosophy I think they’re trying to push through.”

Even many who criticize Ryan’s proposals credit him with opening a much-needed debate on entitlement reform that, until recently, was taboo for political leaders.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, recently proposed a very different fix for spiraling Medicare costs that relies more on increased fees. Also, during the GOP presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire Monday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he soon would unveil a reform proposal of his own.

So far, Ryan’s recommendations to save Medicare have provoked both praise and brickbats.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted it on "Meet the Press" as “right-wing social engineering” — remarks he later retracted after they triggered a sharp backlash from the GOP base.

The most extreme response so far, however, came from former White House Green-Jobs czar Van Jones. Jones stepped down in September 2009 after his signature turned up on a 9/11 truther petition.

At a recent Yes! Magazine event, Jones suggested that Ryan’s plan was more dangerous than the terrorist organization al-Qaida. “I’m not afraid to say that Paul Ryan’s budget is a threat to our country,” Jones said. “Paul Ryan’s budget would knock out more critical infrastructure than al-Qaida ever dreamed of.”

Ryan chuckled when he heard Jones’ remark for the first time Wednesday, telling Newsmax: “I think the left is going to come unglued a little bit because I think people of the left who believe in big government, who believe in growing government so much more, feel like they are on the verge of a big victory in accomplishing that agenda.

“Here’s the problem: The American people don’t want that. We are still a center-right country. And so what we’ve shown with this budget, is we can still get America back. We can still have a limited government and economic freedom, a prosperous, free-market society. That’s still sustainable.

“We’re proving it with our budget using CBO economics, meaning real score-keeping. We can balance the budget, pay off the debt, have limited government and a free economy,” he says.

“And those who don’t like that agenda are going to do everything and say everything they can to prevent that from happening,” he adds.

As for the charge his proposal represents social engineering, Ryan replied “this is as gradual as it gets.”

His plan has no impact on those 55 and older, and those 54 and younger need to understand that Medicare “is going to go bankrupt” unless it is changed, period.

“What we say is, ‘Have a system that works like the one that members of Congress and federal employees have, which would work like Medicare advantage, Medicare Part D, or Medicare Supplemental works today, where you have a list of plans to choose from. These plans compete against each other for your business, and you, the future senior citizen, you’re in charge of your healthcare — not some 15-member panel of bureaucrats that the president appoints.’”

Editor's Note: Sign Up Now to Get the Full Paul Ryan Newsmax Interview — Click Here Now.


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