Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alice (And Paul) In Wonderland

Alice Rivlin, a technocrat who served as President Clinton’s OMB Director, has attracted unwanted attention lately after Paul Ryan began touting her as a co-conspirator in drafting his Medicare destruction budget plan. He calls it it the ‘Rivlin-Ryan Plan’ and his voucher idea “premium support” (another Luntz language propaganda adjustment?). In the world of economists, Alice Rivlin occupies a rather lowly technocratic rung compared to policy wonks and Nobel laureates of Paul Krugman's caliber. But even Rivlin, the technocrat, is mindful of too close an association with Ryan’s cruel and insane ideas. She made sure to put daylight between her posture and Paul Ryan's Medicare scheme.

It’s almost a throwback on a grander scale to when the Reagan administration outrageously miscategorized ketchup as a “vegetable” in order to cut funding for poor children’s school lunches while remaining within minimal nutrition standards. Both targeted our most vulnerable populations — Reagan went after poor children, raising their levels of malnourishment, and Ryan is targeting seniors for a cruel, inhumane fate: zapping health care for seniors on fixed incomes who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for the balance of their premiums. The common thread is, those with the financial means to supplement their meals and health care are spared. But the elderly poor are targeted for elimination through the vicissitudes of fate and a shredded social safety net.

Nazi Germany targeted similar populations — the poor, the elderly, the chronically ill, wards of the state, generally — for elimination in favor of younger, healthier, and wealthier people. The Economist termed Ryan’s Medicare scheme “fundamentally immoral.” Even conservative economists ripped Ryan’s “off the deep end budget” while Talking Points Memo mocked Ryan’s Alice in Wonderland white unicorn assumptions, and Time’s Michael Grunwald ripped the idiot punditocrats who labeled Ryan’s plan “courageous.”
Ryan is a conservative Republican from a conservative Republican district, a committee chairman in a conservative Republican caucus. He was reelected last year with 68% of the vote. . . . I do question whether it was really courageous for him to propose huge tax cuts for the rich, squeeze health care for the poor, and promise that nobody over 55 — the heart of the conservative Republican base — will have to make any sacrifices. Honestly, does anyone think this week has been bad for Ryan's career?

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