376″ height=”253″ />In their short time as a majority party, House Republicans have repeatedly stumbled when addressing some of the major issues facing the nation. According to the Republican narrative, their win last fall was a mandate for smaller government, which meant their job was to go in and gut the federal budget in an effort to reduce record deficits and shrink the size of government. With their mandate in hand Republicans went to work and have spent the last couple of months crafting their bold new budget. Yet in crafting their hard hitting policies, the House GOP seem to have lost touch with the mechanics of government and its many parts, ultimately leading them to create essentially toxic policy proposals.
That means policy ideas that are damaging within every sphere and in every sense—harmful to government structure, the American people, and even the Republican party. White papers which, though ideologically bold and innovative, are completely out of touch with certain political and economic realities. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is a prime example of the confused toxic policy coming out of the House. The Ryan Plan arrived on the scene to great praise, but after further analysis has come to reveal itself as a highly untenable strategy. Instead of reforming the program so that its liabilities do not continue growing at a much faster rate than its revenue, the plan suggests destroying Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system. Such a system would not alleviate the government deficit, but would transfer it to households. And while Ryan and House Republicans keep claiming that the plan will not destroy Medicare, the fine print remains incompatible with Republican revisionism.
Medicare’s purpose is two-pronged: first it provides health insurance, which pays for a beneficiary’s health care expenses if they are over 65; and second it insures one against not being able to buy health insurance, meaning that those under 65 have the guarantee that they will receive at least decent health insurance after they turn 65. Ryan’s plan erases both of these essential guarantees.
Unsurprisingly the Ryan Medicare plan has blown up in the party’s face and become a dark cloud looming over the GOP, even over those far away like NY 26 House candidate Jane Corwin (though it’s debatable whether Medicare brought showers or drizzles to the 26th district). Not to mention in the weeks following that election numerous national polls have offered further evidence of general public disdain over Ryan’s plan. In a recent CNN poll 58% of respondents said they opposed the plan, while 35% supported it. This majority stands across all demographics: 54% of conservatives are opposed, and so are 74% of seniors. In addition, a CNN analyst notes that for the first time since Republicans won back control of the House, the percentage of Americans who think that Republican control of the House is good for the country has fallen below the 50 percent mark.
House GOP seems not to have learned anything from this legislative mistake and is now doing its best to botch efforts to raise the debt ceiling. Two weeks ago the Republican majority shot down a Congressional procedure that had been considered standard policy for most of its existence. The clean debt ceiling vote, meant to raise the debt ceiling without making major cuts to federal spending, was rejected by a vote of 318 to 97, with 7 Democrats voting “present.” For Republicans the vote, whose fate was all but guaranteed, was symbolic of their refusal (and the American public’s refusal) to accept any more debt without equal cuts in spending, their take on fiscal austerity. But once again their efforts are misguided, because as everyone who knows something about the national debt, economic policy or the budget deficit has said, the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the deficit, the budget or spending.
What it has to do with is allowing the U.S. Department of the Treasury to pay what the U.S. owes for the purchase of goods and services already authorized by the federal government. Nonetheless Republicans are still hawking the toxic proposal that raising the debt ceiling must be countered with similar cuts in spending. And though cuts in spending make sense when tackling budget deficits, the debt ceiling is an entirely different story.
The bottom line is that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the US would default on its debt and global economic Armageddon would ensue. Even scarier—when faced with possible economic catastrophe, Republicans, once again, still have to consider which is more important: ideology or the well-being of the American people.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.