Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Run Against the Ryan Budget After a Grand Bargain

Case #1: If you are running for Congress against a Republican incumbent. You say: my opponent voted for the Ryan budget that would destroy Medicare.

Case #2: If you are an incumbent Democrat who voted for the grand bargain. You say: my opponent supported the Ryan budget that would destroy Medicare.

Case #3: If you are Barack Obama. You say: my opponent supported the Ryan budget that would have destroyed Medicare.

In case 1, if pressed by reporters, you say: I support deficit reduction, but I oppose Medicare cuts and [insert any and all specific cuts that have been raised by the reporter or which harm your district], and I oppose the Ryan budget  that my opponent and other Republicans in Washington support that would destroy Medicare.

In cases 2 and 3, if pressed by reporters, you say: I got our budget under control. As far as Medicare, I supported modest cost-savings, but my opponent supports the Ryan budget, which would destroy Medicare.

Note: I am not suggesting that Democrats should (or, for that matter, shouldn't) agree to Medicare cuts as part of a grand bargain; and, for what it's worth, I agree with Scott Lemieux that the White House is nuts if it believes that a grand bargain will help in any significant way in November 2012. But the idea that a grand bargain including Medicare costs would prevent Democrats from running against Ryan in 2012 is just wrong.


  1. The argument isn't that they can't run that way, the argument is that it dilutes their ability to do so effectively. It requires a layer of explanation and nuance that would not otherwise exist, which inevitably makes it a somewhat harder sell. People can disagree as to the significance or extent of this, but it's not NOTHING.

  2. Anon,

    And that's what I'm disagreeing with. See above: where's the level of nuance? It's not needed, either rhetorically or, (bonus!) for accuracy's sake.

  3. You don't think there's any daylight between "hands off Medicare" and "I support reforming Medicare, but not in that way"? You don't think the former would be a far more potent thing to be able to say?

  4. Why would your message be the latter? The point is that you can bash the other side for their position, period, end of story, regardless of what your position is. Frankly, you can do it even when it's not actually an accurate version of their position, so why couldn't you do it when it is?

  5. Well, sure you can. And they'll say "Medicare is on a path to destruction without reform."

    I guess the part I'm missing is why this is supposed to be a new, devastating strategy. As for it being an accurate depiction: though technically true in one sense, I think it's a shade disingenuous to criticize a plan that changes Medicare "as we know it" when any serious reform attempt will have to do the same. If not in structure, then certainly with cuts sufficient enough to render is radically different in the way that most matters to the people using it.

  6. "And they'll say..."

    Yes, they will. With or without Medicare cuts in a budget deal.

    On the substance: there's just a huge difference between the Ryan plan and the various things that Obama & the Dems were negotiating now. I don't agree at all that some those cuts (depending, of course, on what they actually are) would make it "radically different" to people using it.

    And, no, it's not supposed to be a new, devastating strategy. The point is that the exact same strategy of running against Republicans on the Ryan budget is 100% available to Democrats whether or not they agree to the cuts that Obama was negotiating.

    Again -- that's not to say he should make that deal if it was available. The point is he should be thinking about it in substantive terms.


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