The Key To the Obama-Ryan Kerfuffle

DrRich | May 2nd, 2011 - 6:05 am


When Congressman Ryan released the House Republican budget plan a few weeks ago, he made it clear that he believed his proposal would engender a vigorous reaction from the Progressive leadership of our government. He further expressed the hope that such a reaction would at last engage both sides in a real debate about how to reduce our crushing federal deficit, which is growing fast enough to promise societal disintegration within a generation or two.

So when President Obama subsequently announced that he was giving a speech that would articulate a meaningful response to the Ryan proposal, and invited Congressman Ryan and some of his Republican confederates to attend, the Republicans respectfully showed up and sat in their designated front row seats, expecting, they said, to hear the President lay out some common ground for tough but necessary negotiations on reducing our debt.

Of course, that is not what happened. The President’s tone was righteous, accusatory, uncompromising. He ripped Ryan and colleagues each a new one, accusing them of attempting to “end Medicare as we know it,” and of trying to balance the federal budget by throwing old people under the bus, and depriving them of their God-given right to healthcare. While I am President, he indicated, the Republicans will never succeed in their efforts to break the social compact we have made with our elderly citizens. Never! (And through the whole speech, there the hapless Republicans sat, fidgeting with increasing discomfort and dismay – the self-satisfied perpetrators of this dastardly plan, the unfeeling tools of the wealthy and special interests – right there in the front row.)

After the speech, Congressman Ryan described himself as supremely disappointed by the President’s words and his tone. Ryan clearly felt he and his Republican friends had been set up by the President’s invitation, and had been maneuvered into attending their own lynching.

DrRich is disappointed, too – not by the President’s speech (which DrRich could easily have written for him) – but by Ryan’s apparent surprise. It occurs to DrRich that members of the President’s opposition simply do not understand where he is coming from, or how to deal with him. This is a very scary thought.

President Obama’s response to Ryan’s budget plan was not offered as an opening position for negotiations. It was, instead, an impassioned statement of First Principles, principles that define the difference between good and evil. There will be no compromise on first principles, no compromise with evil, no negotiations, no taking of prisoners.

This firm, uncompromising and immediate response (with the evil-doers sitting just a few feet away) came from the same President who deliberated for months after commanders in the field begged for an immediate infusion of more troops in Afghanistan, who equivocated for two years over the closing of Guantanamo, who waffled, also for years, on where to try captured terrorists and who should try them, and who allowed the tax rates for 2011 to remain unresolved until the last days of 2010. But this time he was sure of his position, and he was sure of it instantaneously and instinctively, as a matter of principle. His position on this matter is a reflection of his very core.

And what was it about Ryan’s plan that suddenly turned President Obama’s spine to titanium? It was this: Ryan’s plan would require at least some of the elderly to pay for some of their own healthcare.

The Ryan plan, in outline, is to convert the Medicare program to a voucher system, and allow the elderly to purchase their own health insurance from a pool of choices. Ryan has specified that the poor and the sick would receive full healthcare coverage – better coverage (he insists) than they are getting today. But well-to-do elderly Americans would have to carry at least some of their own weight, and to get the coverage they need would have to add their own funds to their federal vouchers. (An oft-ignored point is that anybody currently 55 or over would never be subject to Ryan’s new system, but would continue to receive Medicare as it is today.)

DrRich chooses to ignore for now the fact that the health insurance industry will never go for such a plan, since it requires them to operate under their current, utterly broken business model, and that therefore Ryan’s plan is a non-starter.  It is still an honest and principled attempt at a solution.

Ryan’s plan has the virtue of recognizing the fact that we cannot afford to purchase with public funds all healthcare for all individuals. That’s what is causing our federal debt to skyrocket to catastrophic proportions. And, recognizing that fact, his plan would require some elderly Americans, the ones who can afford it, to contribute their own funds to their healthcare coverage.

Require the rich to pay more. Isn’t this what President Obama has been saying all along?

So why is the President so adamantly opposed to such a thing?

This whole Obama-Ryan kerfuffle is simply a graphic illustration of a point DrRich has made many, many times before. Any Progressive healthcare system, at the end of the day, must attempt to centralize all healthcare decisions, and thus to direct ALL healthcare spending, and therefore, will have to restrict individuals from spending their own money (and making important decisions) on their own healthcare. DrRich has explained why this kind of restriction will be fundamental to Progressive healthcare reform, and he has described some of the steps our government has already taken to implement such restrictions. It is likely true that Progressives will have to make a few minor compromises here and there in order to advance the program as a whole (perhaps, for instance, allowing people to buy their own “alternative medicine” products). But they can never compromise to the extent that the Ryan plan would require.

Obama’s impassioned speech neatly reflects this fundamental precept. For the Ryan plan, or any plan, to not only allow but also require people to contribute to their own healthcare is a mortal sin under the Progressive program. And anyone who advances such a plan is anathema, and must be dealt with harshly. Just as Obama dealt with Ryan.

We are only a tiny step away from having any proposal such as Ryan’s being labeled as hate speech. Heck, after the President’s performance, we may be there already.

4 Responses to “The Key To the Obama-Ryan Kerfuffle”

  1. pj says:

    Very true. So what can we do about it? The public is still(or even more than ever) immersed in the “magical thinking” that a single payor system(such as Canada’s) is economically feasible here and will solve all of the media generated largely anecdotal episodes of “denied” cancer treatments for uninsured and other propgandistic sob stories. Why is the concept of self dependence such an anathema in or society?

  2. Tom says:

    Dr. Rich,
    Do you think that someone like, say, Donald Berwick, has actually worked this out for themselves, and that they actually have thoughts such as “Yes, we need to prevent people from spending their own money on their own healthcare.”? I know that much of your online persona is meant to be amusing (whenever I see the word wry, I think of this blog), but there is also a great deal of serious commentary here, and I’m really not sure what the answer is. Do you think that high-level advocates of Progressive healthcare reform realize what the end-results of their schemes are, or do you think that they just haven’t followed things through to their natural conclusion?

    • DrRich says:


      I have given this question a lot of thought. I believe that the vast majority of American progressives have no idea where their well-meaning outlook is taking us. However, I have reluctantly concluded that the relatively few Progressives – the ones who are in charge, and you know who they are – know exactly what they are doing. I will be putting up a post soon that will illustrate further.


  3. [...] the speech President Obama gave responding to Congressman Ryan’s budget plan (the one in which he lured Ryan to sit in the front [...]

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