Jonah, Andrew: A few thoughts on the how the Ryan plan is going to play politically. First, Paul Ryan has simply been tremendous. In every interview, he’s serious and determined, yet calm, judicious, and reasonable — the sweet spot of political persuasion. The vote last week was a personal triumph for Ryan and courageous act of principle by House Republicans. I think in the ten-year window the Ryan resolution is far-reaching yet politically realistic.
It’s the politics of Medicare I worry about. It’s a popular program and few people seem to realize that it’s a key driver of health-care costs and our fiscal problems. Jim Capretta has an excellent piece in the new issue defending the substance of the Ryan Medicare plan. If we could get Ryan and Capretta out barnstorming every corner of the country, I’m confident they’d sweep all before them. But this fight will take place in hundreds of congressional districts — only one of them represented by Paul Ryan — and will be nasty and brutish.
On Medicare, Republicans have taken on a gargantuan task defending a plan that won’t pass into law, wouldn’t take effect for ten years even if it did, and may not — if early indications are any guide — be taken up by Republican presidential candidates (even Trump is cautious on this one). I want to believe that this time is different, that worries about the debt will overwhelm all, that there is undetected sentiment in favor of transforming Medicare, that Obama’s blatant cynicism will backfire, and that the crude Mediscare campaign has been run so many times that it has lost some its force. But I have doubts.