Video: Ryan: Dems 'shamelessly' demagogue Medicare

  1. Closed captioning of: Ryan: Dems 'shamelessly' demagogue Medicare

    >> joining us now from capitol hill , though, we've been waiting for this all morning, republican congressman from wisconsin and chairman of the house budget committee .

    >> all month.

    >> representative paul ryan .

    >> all year.

    >> paul , congressman, how you holding up?

    >> i'm doing great. how are you guys doing?

    >> we're doing okay.

    >> pretty good.

    >> of course, a lot of talk this morning focused on new york's 26. i guess you worked. did you first work, what is it, for kemp?

    >> well, bob caston from wisconsin. then i worked for jack kemp after that.

    >> obviously, this was kemp's seat that went democratic last night, the first time this century, only the third time since the civil war and all eyes are on your budget, specifically on the medicare proposal for your budget. and this is now going to be nationalized, obviously. what's your response to the events and the attacks?

    >> two things i would say. first of all, when a democrat runs as a third party, tea party candidate and spends a couple million dollars, it's going to have an effect. second thing, there is a medicare story to be told. the story that's being told is the president and his party have decided to shamelessly distort and demagogue medicare . so we are going to see new medicare reform campaign here. joe , i watched your tirade yesterday morning. i agreed and liked your tirade on medicare yesterday. i would say a couple things. number one, this isn't about your program. i heard you say this a minute ago. a voucher if money goes in the mail and you take yur voucher and buy insurance, that's not what we're proposing. we're proposing premium support. that means when joe goes on medicare , he has a list of options he chooses from. now, in joe scarborough 's case since he's a wealthy person --

    >> how do you know that?

    >> i just have a hunch.

    >> it's sort of hateful political talk that we fight against every day. okay, so go ahead.

    >> let me speak hypothetically for a second. don't sub ssidize the wealthy as much. this is an idea actually that didn't come from the right. this is the idea that came from bill clinton 's bipartisan commission to save medicare . john breaux was the author of that back in 1999 . brookings institution first coined the phrase "premium support." and here's the kicker to this, joe . we are saying don't change benefits for a person over the age of 55. people who are 55 and above have either retired or about to retire, they've organized the premise the government's made to them. we think government should keep us promise. because medicare is over $30 trillion in the hole. you've got to fix it for our generation if you want to help the current generation and for our generation to have a program that counts on and the program we're talking about is a program we have lots of experience with. same kind of system members of congress and federal employees have like a prescription drug benefit. it looks like medicare advantage. medicare has lots of experience with more choice and competition. the real irony of this medicare campaign we're about to hear is the president's health care law takes $500 billion from medicare not to make it more solvent but to put it on obama care and puts a new rationing board in charge to start price controlling medicare to deny access to current seniors.

    >> so paul , so that took you about 2, 2 1/2 minutes to plain explain.

    >> that's the problem.

    >> and for us, paul , to really understand this program, we would need --

    >> yes.

    >> -- at least 10, 15 minutes . so you put that on one side. on the other side --

    >> i know.

    >> -- you run 30-second ads that say paul ryan wants --

    >> wants to kim medicare .

    >> -- to push senior citizens over the ad.

    >> they actually have an ad that does that. have you seen this ad?

    >> that pushes an old senior citizen laid off the cliff. we're showing it right now. so i guess the question is how does anybody reform an entitlement program and explain, first of all, that people who are this old are not going to be affected by the program.

    >> that's right. you should have seen how many takes i had to go through to make that work.

    >> yeah, exactly.

    >> i was joking. that was a joke.

    >> it was a bad one, too.

    >> you can't make this stuff up. here's the problem. look, both parties have done this to each other. i'm not going to say republicans have ever done this. but if we start continuing to demagogue this program, it's going to collapse. it's going to go bankrupt and we'll go into a debt crisis. the people who get first and worst are the elderly and the poor. that's who you need to protect and that's what we're trying to do by fixing this budget mess. if we demagogue entitlement reform, then these programs themselves collapse. and the people on these programs are the ones who are going to get hurt.

    >> we'll move beyond it and talk about what's in the proposal and whether or not it's a starting point in just a second. but would you -- are you saying that the loss of this seat is because of the demagoguing of this issue and not exactly what you're proposing?

    >> actually, i would think -- well, yes but mostly i think when you have a democrat running as a tea party and spends over $2 million making it a three-way race, that's going to hurt the republican a lot. i think the primary problem is the third party that got involved here. but i saw the ads. i saw burning people's medicare cards. if you can scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected, that's going to have an effect. and that is exactly what took place here. so yes, yes, it's demagoguery. it's scaring seniors. you know the irony of this, mika, is we repeal the president's rationing board, we stop the rate of the medicare fund, and we don't affect benefits for people above the age of 55. but in order to do that, we make it solvent for the next generation so our generation has a program when we retire. we think that's responsible. we think it's gradual and sensible. it's an idea that came from the clinton bipartisan commission. it's had bipartisan support before. but you're right, it can be a powerful political weapon. having the ability to scare seniors is powerful. i personally think, mika, it won't work. i really don't think with 15 or 18 months to go, we will get the facts out. the truth will get out. we will show people the facts. i think they're going to reward leadership. i think they'll reward people for not trying to scare people but fix problems. when i talk to my constituents, they want solutions. when they know the facts, they're ready for solutions and answers.

    >> congressman, i understand your argument, and certainly it's true that particularly in the case of that ad, that's a pretty demagogic ad the left is running gepts yagainst you. it seems you have some people very nervous on your own side. obviously, newt gingrich got a lot of attention when he referred to your plan as right-wing social engineering . then we had a story earlier this week within politico where you had a lot of members of the house saying to reporters that, you know, they were nervous from the very beginning about this and that they were against your plan from the outset. there's a lot of people in your own caucus running away from this. do you feel as you're quickly becoming a pariah or do you feel republicans are still on your side the way they were a few months ago?

    >> yeah, i read that story in politico. there were a lot of inaccuracies. believe it or not, there are inaccuracies in the media from time to time.

    >> we are shocked and stunned and deeply saddened.

    >> no, our caucus is very unified. the math is very simple. you can't balance the budget if you don't do medicare reform, if you don't fix this program and prevent its collapse. medicare is probably the most important program in the federal government next to social security . they're collapsing. they're going bankrupt in nine years. you've got to do something to fix these programs. the irony is, the sooner you do it, the more you can prevent seniors from being affected. yes, people in the republican party are nervous because of these kinds of ads because demagoguery unfortunately has worked in the past. but i think people are getting tired of it. i think we have plenty of time to get the facts out there. and once people actually learn the facts, we are fine. and more importantly, we don't have that much more time. we don't have that much more time to keep kicking the can down the road because we will have a debt crisis if we don't start taking these issues seriously. if we keep playing politics and using political weapons against each other, then we'll have political paralysis, then a debt crisis and everybody gets hurt. i think we need leadership. i think we're moving forward. we're unified and excited about taking this challenge to the public.

    >> i think i heard you say in the explanation of your plan that there are no vouchers in this plan.

    >> that's correct.

    >> i want to ask you, for people who are 54 years of age or younger, when they're 70 years of age, are they dealing and negotiating with an insurance company ?

    >> no.

    >> or are they dealing with medicare ?

    >> it's medicare . it's just like the drug benefit works today or like medicare advantage. medicare goes and negotiates with the insurance companies just like me as a federal employee, i as a federal employee. excuse me, my grammar. medicare negotiates with insurers. medicare gives a list of coverage options that are guaranteed. and then you select the plan that you want. you can't be denied. and then medicare subsidizes your plan. that's how it works for a lot of insurance arrangements, for federal workers, medicare advantage and plenty of others work like this. medicare subsidizes a plan you choose.

    >> that's completely different. i'm confused. i thought we were changing the whole program.

    >> we're killing it.

    >> congressman, are you lying to us?

    >> yeah.

    >> are you sure, congressman, this is not social engineering from the right?

    >> pretty familiar.

    >> social engineering from the right. do you think that newt gingrich saying that may not have been helpful in this election in upstate new york ?

    >> perhaps. but he was wrong and he already retracted it.

    >> perhaps.

    >> congressman paul ryan .

    >> good luck on the next commercial getting it in the

By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 5/25/2011 3:13:28 PM ET 2011-05-25T19:13:28

The morning after Democrat Kathy Hochul used the Medicare issue to win what had been a Republican House seat in New York, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., went on the counter-offensive, defending his plan to redesign the entitlement program and accusing Democrats of demagoguery in their attacks on his proposal.

"The president and his party have decided to shamelessly distort and demagogue Medicare,” Ryan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Ryan said the principal cause of the Republicans’ loss of the seat in New York’s 26th Congressional District was the presence on the ballot of Democrat-turned-Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, who took 9 percent of the vote, to Hochul's 47 percent and Republican opponent Jane Corwin’s 43 percent.

Video: Ryan: Dems 'shamelessly' demagogue Medicare (on this page)
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About 103,000 votes were cast Tuesday, compared to about 162,00 votes cast in the most recent contested special election in New York in 2009 in another upstate New York district. That, too, was a three-way race in a formerly Republican-held district, which Democrats won.

“When you have a Democrat running as a Tea Party (candidate) and spends over $2 million making it a three-way race, that's going to hurt the Republican a lot,” Ryan said.  

As her campaign’s centerpiece, Hochul attacked Ryan’s budget plan, which the House passed last month with no Democrats voting for it and only four Republicans voting against it.

Ryan: scare tactics are effective
“If you can scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected, that's going to have an effect,” Ryan said. “And that is exactly what took place here. So yes, it's demagoguery. It's scaring seniors.”

Video: Democrats win special election (on this page)

But he contended that in the long run, “It won't work, I really don't think, with 15 or 18 months to go (before next year’s elections). We will get the facts out. The truth will get out.”

Voters next year, he said, will “reward people for not trying to scare people but fix problems.”

He acknowledged that “people in the Republican Party are nervous because of these kinds of ads because demagoguery unfortunately has worked in the past. But I think people are getting tired of it. I think we have plenty of time to get the facts out there. And once people actually learn the facts, we are fine.”

Video: Rep Israel says NY-26th "changes the competitive playing field" (on this page)

But conversely, he said Congress and the American people “don't have that much more time to keep kicking the can down the road because we will have a debt crisis if we don't start taking these issues seriously.”

Ryan Medicare plan would affect those under age 55
Ryan’s redesign of Medicare, with federally subsidized premiums for private insurance, would take effect for people who are now under age 55.

Ryan admitted that understanding his proposal does require a long and detailed explanation. “That’s the problem” he said, alluding to the power of 30-second TV attack ads.

In a speech Monday at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer praised Ryan as "courageous" for addressing the entitlements issue, even though he disagreed with the specifics of Ryan’s proposal.

After Tuesday’s results in New York, other Republicans may not want to be so "courageous."

Celebrating victory, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Steve Israel said Tuesday night, "Even in one of the most Republican districts, seniors and independent voters rejected the Republican plan to end Medicare."

There will be two more special House elections this year to fill vacancies, one in California in July, for a seat held by Democrat Jane Harman, and another in Nevada in September for the seat vacated by Republican Dean Heller, who was appointed to the Senate to replace John Ensign.

Aftermath of sex scandal
Hochul will fill the vacancy created when Republican Rep. Chris Lee quit after a sex scandal.

Republicans could take some solace from the fact that it was a three-way race, making it a more ambiguous indicator than a pure head-to-head contest.

But it couldn’t be anything other than unsettling for Republicans to lose what had been a GOP seat since Jack Kemp held it in the 1970s.

The district may be substantially reshaped or even eliminated by redistricting now under way in New York, since the state is losing two House seats.

In the 2008 presidential election Republican John McCain carried the district with 52 percent and in 2004 George W. Bush won it with 55 percent.

Republican: Don't ascribe deep meaning
Last Friday Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the conservative group American Crossroads, said, “This race is competitive because a phony Tea Party candidate (Davis) is spending millions of dollars purposefully confusing voters in an attempt to split the Republican vote … Let’s not be silly and ascribe deep ideological meaning to an atypical three-way House race in upstate New York.”

American Crossroads invested $700,000 in advertising and phone calls in the race.

In a statement after Corwin's loss, the group said the debate over whether Medicare affected the outcome more than Davis being on the ballot “is mostly a partisan Rorschach Test. What is clear is that this election is a wake-up call for anyone who thinks that 2012 will be just like 2010. It’s going to be a tougher environment, Democrats will be more competitive, and we need to play at the top of our game to win big next year.”

In addition to American Crossroads, the two political parties and outside groups also invested millions of dollars in the race.

Helping boost Hochul were a Democratic group called House Majority PAC with more than $370,000, the Communication Workers of America with $110,000, and the Service Employees International Union with more than $15,000.

Corwin loaned her campaign nearly $2 million of her own fortune, made from her family’s telephone directory business.

Davis, an industrialist, spent more than $2.6 million from his own fortune on the race. Federal Election Commission records showed that Davis received no campaign contributions; his campaign was entirely self-financed.

Running as a Democrat in 2006, Davis spent $2.2 million of his own money and running again as a Democrat in 2008 he spent $3.9 million of his own money.

Special elections that result in party switches do have predictive value, according to research by Tom Brunell, professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas and graduate student David Smith. The two researchers studied every House special election between 1900 and 2008.

They found that for every net seat gain by a party in a special election, the party can expect to pick up on average more than six seats in the following general election.

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