POLITICS
05/16/2011 02:30 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2011

Paul Ryan Defends Medicare Plan

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pushed back on Monday against criticisms about his budget, saying Democrats were attacking his plans for Medicare while pursuing plans that would hurt today’s seniors.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has come under fire for the major spending cuts in his 2012 budget, which passed through the House in April without Democratic support. Democrats quickly latched onto Ryan’s proposal for Medicare, which would replace the current guaranteed health care program with a voucher-like plan in which the government provided seniors money to purchase their own insurance -- if they are able to afford it.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Chicago, Ryan said his plan would help seniors, not hurt them.

"Our plan is to give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers," he said, according to prepared remarks. "Their plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors."

Many House Republicans were booed and criticized by their constituents for supporting the Ryan budget during their last recess, a two-week period spent in their districts just after all but four of them voted in support of the bill. A group of freshman Republicans, tired of being attacked for supporting the bill, launched a campaign last week decrying “Mediscare” tactics by Democrats.

Now, during another weeklong recess for the House, Ryan seems to be trying to improve the narrative around his budget, although he denied on Sunday that the speech was an attempt at a “do-over” in marketing the plan.

Instead, Ryan attempted to draw a contrast between his budget, which would cut $6.2 trillion, and President Barack Obama’s plan for dealing with the current deficit. While Obama is pushing for revenue increasing measures such as ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting some subsidies, Ryan’s budget lowers taxes for the rich, which he claims will create more jobs.

“Chasing ever-higher spending with ever-higher tax rates will decrease the number of makers in society and increase the number of takers,” he said. “Able-bodied Americans will be discouraged from working and lulled into lives of complacency and dependency.”

Ryan repeatedly referenced class warfare, painting a vision of a future where “governing elites” and “unelected bureaucrats” make decisions for ordinary people.

“If we succumb to this view that our problems are bigger than we are -– if we surrender more control over our economy to the governing class –- then we are choosing shared scarcity over renewed prosperity, and managed decline over economic growth,” he said. “That’s the real class warfare that threatens us -– a class of governing elites picking winners and losers, and determining our destinies for us.”

Meanwhile, Ryan said the president’s plan would allow bureaucrats to ration care for seniors, referring to Obama’s plan to strengthen the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is tasked with finding waste within the Medicare system. 

Ryan said his budget could help jumpstart the country’s economic growth, beginning with tackling the $14.29 trillion deficit. During his Monday speech --which took place the same day the government reached its debt limit -- Ryan echoed calls from House Speaker John Boehner to pair a debt ceiling hike with trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

“This course is not sustainable. That isn’t an opinion; it’s a mathematical certainty. If we continue down our current path, we are walking right into the most preventable crisis in our nation’s history," he said. "The answer is simple. We have to make responsible choices today, so that our children don’t have to make painful choices tomorrow.”

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