Democrats have been hoping to use Paul Ryan’s new budget, including his latest Medicare plan, as a warning about the larger agenda Republicans will pursue if they gain more power in Washington. Today, John Boehner confirmed that the Ryan agenda is indeed the GOP’s agenda writ large:
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday afternoon that the budget proposal put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is a “real vision” of how Republicans would govern if they had more control of Washington.
“So I applaud my colleagues,” he said of those who worked on the Ryan budget, “for the tough decisions they’ve made, to try to do the right thing for the country, to lay out a real vision of what we were to do if we get more control here in this town. It’s still a Democrat-run town.”
Both sides appear to think they have the political upper hand in the showdown over the Ryan budget. Republicans believe that the American people will credit them with a serious effort to tackle a major problem that is jeopardizing our future — entitlement spending — and will argue that Dems have completely abdicated leadership on this front. Republicans recently circulated internal polling which purported to show that key GOP talking points on Ryan’s Medicare plan — it’s “bipartisan,” it would keep Medicare from going bankrupt, it preserves the option of staying in the current program — garnered the support of a plurality of Americans.
But Dems remain convinced that the priorities on display in the Ryan budget will prove toxic for swing voters. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that the Ryan budget would give millionaires a $265,000 tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts, even as 62 percent of its spending cuts come from government programs that help those with low incomes. CBPP’s Robert Greenstein recently opined that it would “likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times.”
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what kind of success Republicans will have in selling Ryan’s new Medicare reforms. A recent National Journal poll found that 64 percent of Americans favor leaving traditional Medicare as is; less than one forth favor Ryan’s changes, even if they are told that seniors will still have the option of buying into the current program.
Whoever is right about the politics, the Ryan proposal is best understood as the GOP’s main offering in the larger ideological argument that will help decide the presidential and Congressional races and will frame the big choice Americans face about the future direction of the country. Boehner’s quote today has confirmed this yet again.