Media's Anointed "Serious" Conservative Can't Handle Serious Debate

I know a lot of adults who discuss their ideas by totally ignoring any substantive criticisms. Based on today'sop-ed from Rep. Ryan, I guess he clears that bar.
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On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) received his second puff profile piece from a major national newspaper this month, this time from the New York Times' Matt Bai who surmised that the conservative congressman is tailor-made for "serious negotiation" with the President over America's fiscal future. Why? Because "he can have strident disagreements without being blindly partisan or personal" and, in Ryan's own words, "I'm trying to get the discussion to an adult level."

Well, I know a lot of adults who discuss their ideas by totally ignoring any substantive criticisms. Based on today's Washington Post op-ed from Rep. Ryan, I guess he clears that bar.

Today's oped -- touting his idea to gut Medicare -- is a transparent attempt from Rep. Ryan to glide past the mathematical beating his broader "Roadmap To America's Future" took last week from Nobel Laureate economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Yet Rep. Ryan fails to address, let alone mention, Krugman's criticisms. How serious.

Krugman's piece leveled three serious blows to Rep. Ryan's claims of balancing the budget:

1. Increases, not decreases the deficit: Rep. Ryan says his overall plan would decrease the budget deficit by half by 2020, but when the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center factored in his proposed tax cuts, you end up with a massive increase in the deficit.

2. Promises to cut domestic spending, doesn't say how: Rep. Ryan plan to freeze domestic discretionary spending would, Krugman notes, "would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn't say."

3. Offers Medicare privatization plan that's already a proven fiscal failure: Ryan proposes turning Medicare from a government insurance program into a voucher system. Krugman reminds we just gave that idea a test run:

...we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

Rep. Ryan offered a response to Krugman last Sat. in his local Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel. But he did not directly rebut the numbers from the Tax Policy Center. He did not further specify what domestic programs he'd cut. And he did not address the fact that the Medicare Advantage privatization experiment was a fiscal failure.

He did say that: "The American people deserve a serious and civil discussion about how to reduce our exploding debt and deficit."

Today's W. Post oped -- speaking to a wider audience in a national newspaper -- is basically a recycling of Rep. Ryan's limp defense of his Medicare privatization plan. But since he doesn't bother mentioning what the criticism is, or even the critic, he made it rather easy to defend.

Future Medicare beneficiaries would receive a payment to apply to a list of Medicare-certified coverage options. The Medicare payment would grow every year, with additional support for those who have low incomes and higher health costs, and less government support for high-income beneficiaries. The most vulnerable seniors would also receive supplemental Medicaid coverage and continue to be eligible for Medicaid's long-term care benefit.

No mention of the criticism that this would expand on the failure of Medicare Advantage. No mention that the voucher payments would have to be insufficient in order to save money. No mention of how wealthy seniors would fare better than everyone else.

This is serious debate? Is it civil to complete ignore what your critics are saying? This is evidence that Rep. Ryan could handle serious negotiation with the President.

Apparently, for ideas, this is the best conservatives have to offer. Even Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is openly lamenting that his party's field of conservative candidates is lacking in ideas. The Hill reports:

"Yes, I am," he said when asked if he was concerned that GOP candidates hadn't offered enough ideas at a national level. "That's why I challenged today, without going into great detail, the fact that we had better begin thinking in the next 13 weeks about what we are going to do."

So maybe Rep. Ryan is the best conservatives have. But that doesn't require national media outlets to buy his own hype that he offers serious, civil debate, when he repeatedly fails to meet his own standard.

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