March 17, 2017

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: Paul Ryan’s Political Blind Spot. “By pushing through an Obamacare replacement that has little support with the public or his caucus, he’s risking a major political backlash against the GOP.”

The emer­ging mess over selling Ry­an’s ver­sion of health care re­form is ex­pos­ing an un­pleas­ant polit­ic­al real­ity for the fisc­ally re­spons­ible wing of the Re­pub­lic­an Party: People like free stuff, and it’s aw­fully dif­fi­cult to take en­ti­tle­ments away after they’re gran­ted. Ry­an’s en­tire ca­reer has been based on the sunny be­lief that well-in­ten­tioned re­forms have a siz­able con­stitu­ency of voters wor­ried about budget-bust­ing gov­ern­ment giveaways. But there’s a long trail of evid­ence that points the oth­er way. Just look at Trump’s win­ning cam­paign mes­sage, unique for a Re­pub­lic­an, pledging to pro­tect en­ti­tle­ments.

Pres­id­ent George W. Bush learned that the hard way when he tackled So­cial Se­cur­ity re­form at the be­gin­ning of his second term. Al­though Bush claimed a man­date from his reelec­tion, many nervous Re­pub­lic­ans quickly de­fec­ted as Demo­crats ef­fect­ively ex­ploited voter anxi­ety about privat­iz­ing a long-stand­ing pub­lic pro­gram. In 2012, when Ry­an was tapped as Mitt Rom­ney’s run­ning mate, Rom­ney dis­tanced him­self from the “Path to Prosper­ity” budget blue­print that Ry­an had cham­pioned in the House. That didn’t stop Demo­crats from slam­ming the tick­et for sup­port­ing cuts to Medi­care—one ma­jor reas­on why the Rom­ney-Ry­an tick­et ran poorly among work­ing-class voters, es­pe­cially in the Mid­west­ern swing states that would go on to sup­port Trump in 2016.

Congress is warped because the American electorate has yet to accept that other people’s money does eventually run out — and that we are all the other people.