The Corner

Ryan: ‘We Owe the Country a Referendum Election’

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) tells National Review Online that Republicans, especially presidential contenders, need become more “provocative” when speaking about health-care reform. “We need to be provocative,” he says. “We owe the country a referendum election. We owe them a policy alternative.”

Specifically, Ryan urges the field to focus on Medicare. “It is the issue, pure and simple,” he says, noting that it encompasses the “debt issue, the deficit issue, and the economy issue.” To help them along this afternoon, Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, outlined his health-care ideas at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif.

His remarks, aides say, are part of Ryan’s push for more “optimistic” and “serious” proposals following House passage of Ryan’s entitlement reforms earlier this year.

With the Democrat-controlled Senate resisting that bill, and the presidential campaign heating up, Ryan hopes to prod Republicans to sharpen their attack on President Obama’s health-care law and renew their commitment to “replace” the legislation with individual-based policies, with an emphasis on choice and competition.

“We know that the first step toward real, bipartisan advances in health policy must start with a full repeal of the president’s partisan law,” Ryan told the Hoover crowd. “But the case for repeal must be matched with even greater intensity by a case for replacing the law with structural reforms and real solutions.”

At the core of Ryan’s refurbished reforms is his effort “to move away from defined-benefit models and toward defined-contribution systems.”

“Under a reformed approach, the government would make a defined contribution to the health-care security of every American, rather than continue to offer open-ended, well-intentioned, but ultimately empty promises,” he said. “In other words, defined contributions should underpin a system driven by patient choice and centered on patient needs — one that offers real security instead of empty promises.”

Ryan’s ideas are anything but — and will, as ever, likely catch flak from Democrats. For instance, his position on insurance reform is, as he might say, provocative. “With regard to health insurance for working Americans, patient-centered reform means replacing the inefficient tax treatment of employer-provided health care with a portable, refundable tax credit,” he said. “You can take [the credit] with you from job to job, allowing you to hang onto your insurance even during those tough times when a job might be hard to find.”

Speaking with NRO before the speech, Ryan reiterated that his Hoover message, be it on insurance or Medicare, is not intended only to be heard by his Capitol Hill colleagues. Instead, the popular fiscal hawk wants to play a role in shaping the 2012 debate — reminding candidates to drop the talking points and detail policy.

“We can do a lot from the House to help bring the party, and therefore the presidential candidates, into the mode of offering a very clear and specific alternative to President Obama’s vision for the country,” he says. As Ryan told me in August, he wants to play a “Jack Kemp–like role” this cycle.

“He taught me that big ideas are the best politics,” Ryan said then.

“They will always be challenged, and they will sometimes be controversial, but you have to do what you think is right, what you’re passionate about, and be a strong advocate for it. If you do that, you can shift the debate in major ways. He showed me how you can do that.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

Most Popular

Elections

Stick a Fork in O’Rourke

If, as I wrote last week here, Joe Biden may save the Democratic party from a horrible debacle at the polls next year, Beto O’Rourke may be doing the whole process a good turn now. Biden, despite his efforts to masquerade as the vanguard of what is now called progressivism, is politically sane and, if ... Read More
Elections

In Defense of the Electoral College

Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined a growing chorus within the Democratic party in calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Speaking at a forum in Mississippi on Monday night, Warren said that she hoped to ensure that “every vote matters” and proposed that “the way we can make that happen is ... Read More
Education

Ivy-League Schools Wither

A  number of liberal bastions are daily being hammered — especially the elite university and Silicon Valley. A Yale and a Stanford, or Facebook and Google, assume — for the most part rightly — that each is so loudly progressive that the public, federal and state regulators, and politicians would of ... Read More
National Security & Defense

In Defense of the Iraq War

Today is the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and Twitter is alive with condemnations of the conflict -- countered by precious few defenses. Yet I believed the Iraq War was just and proper in 2003, and I still believe that today. When Donald Trump condemned the war during the 2015 primary campaign and ... Read More
Elections

Beto-mania and Our Cult of Personality Politics

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s biggest fans and supporters insist he is a forward-thinking, future-oriented visionary, but no contender for the Democratic nomination feels more familiar than the former three-term congressman from El Paso. That’s because he has the highest combined score in both déjà vu ... Read More