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.