Where the Republicans Stand

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In Jonathan Chait’s view, Republicans thought that Medicare reform would be popular, have learned they were wrong, and are now backing away from it. As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, I spent a fair amount of time earlier this spring arguing with other conservatives that including Medicare reform in a budget resolution was not the best way to advance the cause of entitlement reform. In all that time, nobody on the other side of the debate — no writers, think tankers, congressional staffers, congressmen — told me that I was wrong because Medicare reform was going to be popular. The closest anyone came was to say that maybe things had changed to the point that reform would not be as unpopular as it used to be. More commonly, people argued that it would be unpopular but that the alternatives — raising taxes or leaving the budget unbalanced forever — would be worse, both substantively and politically. It may be that some Republican here or there expected a more positive reaction than they got, but I don’t think that this can be said of most of the Republicans who made (or went along) with the decision to raise the Medicare issue.

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