President Paul Ryan? Like the sound of it? Gives me the heebie-jeebies!
Chris Hayes of the Weekly Standard claims Ryan’s considering a toss of the hat into the ring and to expect a decision within 2 weeks. Is there any doubt he’ll quickly become a front-runner in the current Republican field comprised of Tea Party crackpots Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, a way outside the mainstream Libertarian Ron Paul (shocking even to many right-wingers) and establishment phony Mitt Romney? Need I mention the also-rans: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman?
Paul Ryan is the perfect GOP candidate in a way the other’s are not. Simply stated, it’ll take a relatively mainstream, establishment Republican to win a general election. Here’s the problem. Only 1 such viable candidate exists: Mitt Romney. Prior to the Ames Straw Poll Romney looked not only viable but the candidate. Leading in the national polls comfortably but knowing the very conservative Ames Straw Poll would embarrass him, he took a pass on it. His strategy gave him an excuse for his lousy 7th place finish. However, Rick Perry placed 6th as a write-in before formally announcing. Ouch! The obvious problem for Mitt Romney is he’s not conservative enough for a Republican party drunk on a stiff keg of tea.
So maybe Rick Perry’s the man? The latest Rasmussen poll has Perry jumping to the front of the pack at 29%. That’s 11 points ahead of Romney. Ouch again! Perry skipped the bruising Fox News Iowa GOP debate and largely is untested on the national stage. But put it this way, he’s only been in the race a few days and he’s already making bad gaffs trying to intimidate our independent Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke. Perry may be a wee bit too strong a brew for mainstream Republicans and independents. Not to mention his main claim to fame, Texas being a job-creating machine, is a target rich environment for Perry’s opposition.
Paul Ryan can cross both boundaries. He’s firmly an establishment guy being Speaker Boehner’s right hand budget guy, heading the House Budget Committee. Flip the coin over and you have a Tea Party favorite who doesn’t have to wear the label on his sleeve like, say, Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. No wonder über conservative NewsMax had Ryan leading all comers in a poll back in April.
What interested me in discussing a Paul Ryan presidential bid is a story that likely will fly under the radar of most. It’s this odd little story that he’s going to charge $15 a head for a town hall meeting. The cover story put together by his staff is it’s a rotory club invitiation and they set the price. Maybe that’s true but it’s curious he hasn’t held a town hall meeting since April.
What’s signficant about April you ask? It’s when Ryan was getting blow-back from constitutents questioning his Medicare reform plan. ThinkProgress has a couple of videos of the events you can see on YouTube here and here. His constituents aren’t the only ones concerned. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform scares the knickers off me – and that’s not a pretty sight!
The first blow I – and anyone under 55 – will take is the eligibility age will gradually rise to 67. While this might not be catastrophe for me, I know a few people in the trades burdened with bodies, quite frankly, that can’t even hold out until 65, the current age limit. However, I realize something needs to be cut to ensure Medicare’s future and see this change as inevitable.
The real gut punch is the meat of Ryan’s plan which turns Medicare essentially into a medical 401K. I’ll save my opinion on 401K retirement plans for another day but suffice it to say I would never be able to retire under one. And, yes, I’m a saver. I save at least 20% of my income for retirement and I earn well over the median household income in America. Basically, I’m in better shape than 1/2 of America and I couldn’t even think of retirement without a decent pension.
Like a 401K plan, Ryan offers typical retirees a match of $8,000. That’s actually more than my employer’s plan costs. So it’s reasonable, right? Well, I’m not over 67 with my history of cancer asking a for-profit insurance company for an individual policy. Think about it. Insurance is about pooled risk and senior citizens are about as concentrated a high-risk health insurance group you can muster. Assuming I become a ‘typical senior‘ my out-of-pocket costs will rise from $6,150 under current Medicare to $12,510 under Ryan’s plan. My understanding is Ryan’s plan adjusts at the rate of consumer inflation, not medical inflation, so the gap will quickly widen over time. Do I need to start worrying what dog food will taste like?
Oh, yeah. I’m scared. Scared because I view Paul Ryan as the most credible Republican threat against President Obama. And any Republican president, should they win a super-majority in the Senate, will railroad through Ryan’s Medicare reform – or worse – turning my retirement into an absolute nightmare. That’s if I can retire at all. My hope is many Americans like the folks crying out at Ryan’s town hall meetings will be so frightened they pull the lever for the other guy.