Will Ryan's Reverse Coattails Be Strong Enough In Florida To Help The Democrats Win House Seats?
Above is a short video of Alan Grayson's appearance last month on Al Sharpton's MSNBC show. So this is when everyone was sure Romney would pick Portman or Pawlenty as his running mate and before anyone thought he could get bullied by the far right into committing political suicide with a Paul Ryan pick. At the time, Democrats were wondering how they could effectively and legitimately hang the albatross of Ryan's plan to kill Medicare around Romney's neck. That was solved for them on the deck of the USS Wisconsin over the weekend. It's especially relevant in Florida, where seniors make up 31% of the population-- as opposed to about 10% in the rest of the country. Sharpton asks Grayson if the Medicare issue could make the difference in Florida, where Obama is already beating Romney in the polls, despite Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to game the system by preventing students, African Americans and poor people from voting. The question was tailor-made for Grayson:
But the fundamental problem with his plan is that right now, seniors get care and what they [Ryan and his GOP cronies] want to do is substitute the care with a check that they know is not going to be enough for the care... It's some kind of scheme, some kind of game that they're playing on senior citizens. And it's a game of life and death. If they don't get the care they need, then seniors are going to die.
...[A]s soon as Mitt Romney does what he's promised to do in his first week in office, which is to get rid of Obamacare, that immediately means an extra $600 that they have to pay for their drugs every single year. Every year. That's what that means right off the bat. Then beyond that, even without any change in the law, simply allowing what they want their budget to go into effect will mean thousands and thousands of dollars more that seniors will have to pay.
And it's not just seniors. You know, look, I'm in my 50s. One day, I'll be on this plan myself and I'll be paying more. So will people in their 40s, people in their 30s. There's no end to it. And for what? For what purpose? So that Mitt Romney can have a tax cut? You know, Mitt Romney wants millionaires in America to have a tax cut because Mitt Romney wants a tax cut. That's what it comes down to. And he and his selfish friends are going to gut government and gut the economy for the sake of that. Now, we have a president who believes in good government and we have a candidate who believes in no government. America can figure out which one is better for America.
...[B]ecause seniors vote in higher numbers than younger people do-- and that will be true this year, like it is true every year-- you might see seniors making up as much as half of the electorate in Florida this year. And seniors are beginning to realize that Romney is basically conducting a shell game.
The interesting thing is when the President points out all these elements, deficiencies in what Romney's proposing for the country, Romney doesn't even take a stab at defending the Ryan plan. He doesn't even try to do it even though he's endorsed it in the past. He can't explain why it's right after the President explains why it's wrong. That means it's wrong.
Polling has consistently proven Grayson correct on this: "If there is anywhere Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal should be met with death stares, it is in Florida’s retirement communities. Indeed, 40% of the entire state opposes his plan, with only 24% supporting it. 37% of the seniormost voters are against it, but the largest age bloc in opposition is the youngest. 50% of those 18 to 29 years old oppose, and only 15% support it. These are the voters the plan would most affect, as the value of the vouchers over the next 40 to 50 years would cover less and less of the cost of private insurance." And CNN's poll found the same dynamic nationally. "The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal."
Of course Sharpton and Grayson were discussing the presidential race and that's where the focus was on all the Sunday talking heads shows yesterday as well. But Ryan's "kill Medicare/privatize Social Security" agenda, which has been embraced by virtually the entire Republican Party, will have severe consequences in individual congressional races as well. Despite putting on a brave face, the NRCC and the Florida GOP have asked Ryan to stay out of Florida for now. In fact, Ryan will be conspicuous by his absence today while Romney campaigns in Florida.
Romney was aiming for above-the-fold Sunday newspaper coverage
Madden suggests Ryan will be helpful in Iowa, which isn't anywhere near any Great Lake, but where Ryan is visiting a fair today. New York's 23rd CD is lapped by the waters of Lake Erie and within spitting distance of Lake Ontario-- TWO Great Lakes. And the Democratic challenger there, progressive county legislator Nate Shinagawa, thinks his own campaign will be well-served by Romney's selection of Ryan. "Republicans," he said, "are doubling down on their failed priorities. Congressman Paul Ryan wrote the plan to end Medicare as we know it so that the private insurance companies funding their campaigns will profit while seniors will pay more for their health care. He and Congressman Tom Reed voted to make it law. They believe that the way forward is more tax breaks for those who need them the least and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Tom Reed believe that we can grow our economy with deep cuts to the transportation infrastructure that forms the backbone of American manufacturing... Congressman Ryan and Congressman Reed are raising money from the same outsourcers and billionaires their failed policies put first."
This message from Nate is very much like the message we're hearing from Democratic challengers all over the country. And when the GOP tries claiming it's President Obama who hasn't protected Medicare... well other than Hate Talk Radio devotees, no one is buying it. When we hear them squawking that Obamacare cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars, what people are talking about is ending huge unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies through a program called Medicare Advantage. This was not something Democrats pulled out of a hat; it was something that Democrats had honed in on for years. Henry Waxman in particular worked hard to expose this typical Republican waste during the Bush years. Republicans still try to argue it would end up costing seniors through higher Medicare Advantage premiums but it hasn't; in fact those premiums have gone down. The Affordable Care Act, what the GOP still calls ObamaCare, cut insurance company handouts, which were corporate welfare at its worst-- exactly what we should be cutting. Ryan's toxic plan turns the whole program into an inadequate voucher program. And, oddly enough, Ryan's budget hypocritically keeps these cuts to corporate welfare. When other Republicans propose repealing those cuts, they're proposing to blow a huge hole in the budget to fund pure corporate welfare, or "crony capitalism" as Ryan likes to rail against.
Another thing that Ryan, the #1 GOP spokesperson for the exact same Austerity agenda that has failed so miserably in Europe, rails about is budget deficits. David Firestone's extensive OpEd in yesterday's NY Times makes that sound pretty hollow for a Republican with Ryan's long and disgraceful record in Congress.
Mr. Romney wants to offload federal responsibility for Medicaid and move it entirely to the states by turning it into a much cheaper block-grant program. He claims this approach would save $200 billion a year, but never mentions that this would force states to drop coverage for at least 14 million people when states are unable to keep up with rising medical costs, which would raise emergency costs at local hospitals. He says he supports Mr. Ryan’s plan to provide the elderly with a fixed amount to buy either traditional Medicare or private plans, but has also said he would issue his own Medicare plan this fall, far too late.
Beyond his standard line about undoing financial reform and Mr. Obama’s “anti-carbon” agenda, Mr. Romney has also vowed to repeal any Obama regulation that might burden the economy, without telling us which ones. Could he mean the power-plant rule that keeps mercury out of children’s lungs, perhaps? Or the one requiring better brakes on big trucks? Or the one expanding disability protections to people with AIDS or autism? Don’t expect an answer.
The Romney campaign decided long ago that it didn’t need a real economic plan of its own when it could just bash the president’s. “As long as I continue to speak about the economy, I’m going to win,” he said last month. Voters, he is saying, need not inquire further.
Now, let's go back to how Ryan on the national ticket will wreck GOP prospects in congressional races around Florida. And we don't even need to go into the mistrust right-wing Cubans have for him because of his support to end the trade ban against Castro. Let's leave the Cuban politics to work themselves out in their own world and move up the coast towards the red-hot race for the 22nd CD that will pit progressive Lois Frankel against self-confessed Ryan devotee Adam Hasner, who earned the #3 slot for craziest congressional candidate for 2012. Hasner is on Romney’s Florida steering committee and he's become well-known for scaring the hell out of seniors-- and anyone smart enough to know that someday they will also be a senior-- by saying "do we want to transition completely out of that, we want to change the way we pay for Medicare and allow people to access healthcare benefits at a certain age, we want to change what Social Security is, those are the thing we need the next generation to be involved with, not later on, but now and be part of that debate.”
Funny thing is, over 27% of the voting population is over 65 in the 22nd District. In poll after poll, over 70% of seniors of those people oppose the Ryan plan after hearing arguments from both sides. Now that Ryan on Romney’s ticket, Medicare is sure to be the central issue of the campaign. Romney's pick will seriously hurt candidates like Hasner, who thought they could pretend to be "moderates," sweeping their Tea Party radicalism under the rug until November 7th. Yesterday Lois told us that "Ryan's selection should throw red flags here in Florida, where so many seniors live, and where our economy is connected so closely with the quality of life our seniors can enjoy... I think Romney's selection of Paul Ryan will be a serious drag on Tea Party candidates like my opponent, Adam Hasner. He's called the Ryan budget 'bold,' and thinks it doesn't go far enough. I don't think seniors are going to like the prospect of paying $6,000 more for health care."
In a rare moment of honesty, Rep. Connie Mack, who ducked out of voting for the Ryan budget in March, and is likely to be his party's Senate nominee after tomorrow, called Ryan's budget "a joke." A few days after the vote he refused to take part in he said "You know that budget was a joke, doesn't balance the budget for years." Florida Democrats don't agree with Connie on much-- nor with Newt Gingrich who told voters Ryan's budget was "right-wing social engineering," but they agree with both of them that Ryan's budget isn't serious.
The state's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces a stiff challenge in his bid for another term, quickly posted on Facebook.
"Romney VP pick bad for seniors. Signals an end to Medicare as we know it. My commitment to Medicare never stronger," Nelson said.
...Ryan had said the budget is based on Catholic social teaching. But in a letter, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese called that nonsense.
"I am afraid that Chairman Ryan's budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "Survival of the fittest may be OK for social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love."
In the new 7th CD in the Orlando area, where both GOP incumbents, Sandy Adams and John Mica, are competing for their party's nomination, there can be no ducking the implications of the Ryan plan to kill Medicare and privatize Social Security. Adams and Mica both voted for it, and Democratic nominee Nicholas Ruiz is pounding both of them with their votes. Ruiz has been consistently saying all during the cycle that the majority of middle/working class voters realize that the Romney/Ryan ticket represents the most anti-New Deal ticket in American history. And it's not only Democrats, who are already keen to reject such anti-New Deal austerity, in the name of a fake entitlement crisis, but also NPAs and Republicans, many of whom appreciate the New Deal legacy of equal opportunity safeguards and prosperity.
Ruiz doesn't care which of the anti-Medicare Republican incumbents wins tomorrow's primary. When it comes to not protecting working families and seniors in central Florida, Mica and Adams really are just tweedledee and tweedledum. Other Republican House incumbents in Florida who voted with Ryan to kill Medicare and who could be hurt by his inclusion on the ticket are Bill Young (FL-13), Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Allen West (FL-18), and David Garcia (R-26).
I bet Romney and the GOP don't want a repetition of this scene from Wisconsin where Ryan joked about a senior citizen being handcuffed and hauled away for protesting his denigration of Medicare and Social Security as though they were "welfare" or "entitlements," which is how shady right-wingers like Ryan try to stigmatize the two programs.
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