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Carrying Unpopular Plan, Republicans Try Up-Is-Down Approach

The public doesn’t only disapprove of the Obama Administration and their economic policies. They have a problem with the key Republican economic policy, i.e. the Ryan budget that ends Medicare and cripples Medicaid. No national poll has shown more than 36% support for the plan to end Medicare, with the most opposition coming from seniors – the fastest-growing segment of the Republican base – and people following the issue most closely.

It’s gotten so bad for the Ryan plan that Republicans must stoop to Orwellian logic, positing themselves as the defenders of the social safety net, and their opponents as those who would destroy it. The ad in question goes to some pretty desperate lengths to reach that conclusion.

The ad claims (emphasis mine) that Costello “backs a Democrat plan the media says would decimate Medicare.” But the source for the claim is an editorial in Investors Business Daily. The ad also says the Democratic plan would “shred the safety net.” But the USA Today editorial cited as the source makes a less direct claim: “Democrats know that the simple math of health care will eventually shred the social safety net they seek to protect.”

The GOP claim that Dems would destroy Medicare is based on the argument that Dems would do nothing at all on Medicare, and that the trustees for Medicare and Social Security have said the programs will become insolvent sooner than expected. Dems counter that they have already passed a slew of Medicare reforms in the Affordable Care Act (even if you argue that they are insufficient, Dems want them to be the basis for further reforms), and that they’re currently involved in the Biden-led deficit reduction talks, which are expected to deal with Medicare.

Indeed, the set of ideas Democrats have lately touted as cost-reduction options for Medicare – like bargaining for prescription drug prices or shifting dual eligibles to Medicaid, along with building on the payment reforms in the ACA – basically represent their counterpoint to the Ryan plan.

And if that weren’t enough, their plan to privatize Medicare is being teamed with a plan to privatize Social Security.

House Republicans on Friday introduced legislation that would allow workers to partially opt out of Social Security immediately, and fully opt out after 15 years.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, and several other Republicans introduced the Savings Account for Every American (SAFE) Act. Under the bill, workers would immediately have 6.2 percent of their wages sent to a “SAFE” account each year.

That would take the place of the 6.2 percent the workers now contributed to Social Security.

Another 6.2% is sent to Social Security by employers. Under the Sessions bill, employers would continue to make this matching contribution to Social Security, but after 15 years, employers could also send that amount to the employee’s SAFE account.

Apparently Republicans are counting on some amnesia from those who aren’t supposed to remember the crash of the stock market in 2008.

So we have two parties. One will no longer propose what needs to be done to fix the economy, and the American public has soured on them. The other proposes violently unpopular approaches to shred retirement security in America, and the American public has soured even more on them. The Republicans’ last hope seems to be telling the public that up is down and that their opponents want to destroy the safety net amid their efforts to save it. The Democrats’ last hope seems to be describing Republican plans accurately, so that they will be seen as the least worst option.

This is not going to be a pretty 2012 election.

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David Dayen

David Dayen