Today POLITICO Arena asks:
Rep. Paul Ryan, architect of House Republicans' budget plan, has faced a series of angry questions at town hall meetings, thanks in part to groups like the Democratic National Committee and the progressive activist group Americans United for Change. Can they use town halls to turn public opinion against the budget plan, as happened with Democrats' health care proposals in summer 2009? And is the fury organic or mostly manufactured?
Unlike the fierce Tea Party reaction to Obama's health care scheme in the summer of 2009, which came spontaneously from the bottom up and continued through November 2010, the angry reaction at the moment to the House Republicans' budget plan is largely manufactured by the Democratic left and is not likely to last — or, if it does, we're in more trouble than we imagine. What the 2010 elections demonstrated was the ability of the American people to discern change they could not believe in, and to do something about it. One hopes they'll see enough change in the Ryan plan that they can believe in.
Take, for example, Ryan's proposal to change Medicare from a "defined benefit" to a "defined contribution" plan, which has generated the most early opposition. The bottom line here is really quite simple. The CBO projects that Congress would have to double all federal income-tax rates to keep Medicare and other entitlements on their current path. That would cripple the economy — and itself end Medicare as we know it, and much else besides — so Congress must reduce Medicare spending growth.
The basic question, therefore, is whether bureaucrats decide what health care seniors receive (the Democratic method) or seniors themselves decide which benefits are most valuable to them (the Ryan plan). Will more Americans prefer to have their health care rationed by others, or by themselves? We shall see.