Republicans clearly had the upper hand when negotiating the FY2011 budget. Democrats were forced to go more than halfway to avert a government shutdown. However, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has handed President Obama and the Democrats a huge gift in the form of his FY2012 budget proposal by taking on Medicare—a programm made far more expensive when Republicans rammed through Part D in 2003 and tied the federal government’s hands in negotiating drug prices. Seniors and soon-to-be seniors vote. Even anti-government seniors like their government-run Medicare. It’s one of the reasons Ryan’s budget is DOA.
But Ryan’s proposal is much less about the budget than the 2012 election as Republicans will argue that they are the sober, responsible party addressing America’s debt problem. Democrats will counter that Republicans are trying to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors and middle class. I think Democrats win that argument. As for Paul Ryan, himself, he knew exactly what he was doing. By placing Medicare in the bull’s-eye, Ryan looks like a gutsy deficit hawk, putting himself on the map. I have no doubt that Ryan will be one of those mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for the GOP nominee in 2012 or a presidential contender himself in 2016 if Obama is reelected.
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