Dick Morris: House GOP Should Reject Ryan Budget

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 05:00 AM

By Todd Beamon

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House Republicans "would do well" to reject the budget plan unveiled Tuesday by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan because of its proposed cuts to Medicare over the next decade, political analyst Dick Morris says.

"Why should the Republican Party give the Democrats ammunition for the next five elections?" Morris, who served in the Clinton administration, asks in an op-ed piece to be published Wednesday in The Hill. "Why should House Republicans put their necks on the line every two years for changes that are proposed to take effect a decade hence?

Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, proposed a budget that would slash $5.1 trillion in federal spending over the next decade and balance the government's books with cuts in programs such as food stamps and government-paid healthcare for the poor and working class.

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The plan would cut $2.1 trillion in Obamacare benefits; $732 billion in Medicaid and the Medicare Advantage program, which affects seniors and other low-income Americans; and nearly $1 trillion in food stamps, Pell Grants, farm subsidies, and similar programs.

The proposal would reprise a voucher-like Medicare program for retirees who enroll in the program in 2024 that would allow them to purchase health insurance on the open market. Ryan has said the program would drive down government debt over the long term.

It also would return Pentagon spending by 2017 to its level from before sequestration, to an increase of $483 billion over 10 years, which would be offset by the reductions.

"By cutting wasteful spending, strengthening key priorities, and laying the foundation for a stronger economy, we have shown the American people there's a better way forward," Ryan said in introducing the budget plan.

But in his op-ed piece, Morris contends that Ryan's support of the Medicare voucher program "cost the party dearly in the election of 2012," referring to the re-election of President Barack Obama and the Democrats' continued hold on the Senate.

"By then, he had retreated from his original position and, with the cover of some support from wayward Democrats, had amended his plan to allow seniors to continue the current Medicare program," Morris says.

Ryan's plan, he says, gives Democrats immediate ammunition: "Republicans propose medicare cuts."

Also, as the president's $500 billion in Medicare benefit cuts to finance Obamacare have driven more seniors to the Republican Party in recent years, "Ryan’s prescription for long-term cuts a decade away will give them pause in switching their votes," he says.

"Democrats can easily counter the Medicare Advantage cut, which hurts one-third of all seniors, by saying that the GOP wants to cut Medicare, too."

Historically, Republicans have "a great innate disadvantage" with Democrats when it comes to Medicare, Morris says.

He notes that the GOP initially opposed the program when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson created it in 1965, and later sought to limit its growth — which led to a federal government shutdown for several months in 1995 and 1996.

"The party is not the darling of America’s elderly," he said. "The Ryan budget just will serve to reignite fears that the GOP hasn’t changed and still is gunning for the program," Morris says.

The political analyst cites recent Gallup polls showing that more seniors are voting Republican because of Obamacare and the Medicare cuts.

"House Republicans should not adopt a budget that will drive them back from whence they came," Morris writes.

"Were the Medicare cuts on our immediate agenda, it would be different. But since they are to take effect only in 2024, why must we go on record voting for them now?"

He calls for a private healthcare system for seniors that is "paid for by government vouchers and subsidies."

"But the elderly will still worry that the government payments will fall short, and will be concerned that the system as a whole will be fatally weakened by making participation in traditional fee-for-service Medicare voluntary," Morris says.

"Ryan’s plan is a good one and deserves passage some years hence, but why vote for it today?

"Republicans can make a virtue of necessity and trumpet their votes against the proposal as they campaign around the country this year," Morris concludes. "Has Ryan done them a favor by giving them the chance to vote 'no'?"

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