Cenk Uygur: Republicans across the board have come out hard against President Obama’s debt plan, and it’s no surprise. In a speech yesterday, Obama put the GOP in a tough position. By offering up his own solution. Obama connected Republicans to their party’s plan, which he correctly framed as one which offers tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor. And no one was more upset about this than the GOP budget mastermind Paul Ryan, who was forced to sit front and center while the President tore his proposal to shreds. Apparently he wasn’t expecting Obama might actually go on the attack.
Rep. Paul Ryan on video: I was expecting, actually speaking with some Democrats, that it was going to be an olive branch speech. When the commander-in-chief sort of brings himself down to the level of the partisan mosh pit that we’ve been in, that we are in, it makes it more difficult to bring that kind of leadership.
Cenk Uygur: Aaw, so were your feelings hurt? Some people cried about how President Obama shouldn’t have invited him to the speech if he was going to disagree with him. I love that! These guys are actually shocked and chagrined to find out that the President is in fact a Democrat. Look, I’m a little surprised, too. I love the audacity of their expectations. At least I voted for the guy, right. These guys think like, how dare he disagree with us. And if he does, he should be far more polite about it.
Now this comes from the same guys who viciously attacked the President day in and day out. In fact, the Republicans lit into the President right after the speech, saying this isn’t a serious proposal, this shows no leadership, and he just wants to play political games. So what? Only Republicans are allowed to make their case? And if the President actually states his opinion, they’re grossly offended: how dare you be a Democrat. We told you to agree with us. Terrible. No manners at all.
So when the President actually went on the offense and said that the GOP vision on medicare says that America can’t afford to keep their promise we made to care for our seniors, the Republicans actually went into a panic, and here’s the fun part. Now there are reports all over Washington that Republicans with districts that have huge senior populations in them are a little non-committal on whether they will vote for the Ryan plan. Oops. Sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned.
So Ryan just released an op-ed in the Washington Post in a panic. He says the words retirement and retirees six times, senior six times, medicare and medicaid eight times. Why? Because he says, did I say that I was going to cut medicare? Did I say that? Me? No. I’m going to put 10 seniors and retirees. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I love the smell of Republican panic in the morning.
Now joining me is editor-at-large of Salon, Joan Walsh, and Ernest Istook, former Congressman, and now visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Ernie, let me start with you. Did these Republicans guys get caught with their hand in the cookie jar on medicare?
Ernest Istook: No, not at all. The worst thing that you can do to somebody is to make a promise that you cannot keep. When 40% of the money that the federal government spends is borrowed, when you’ve got a $1.6 trillion annual deficit and you keep making promises that are unsustainable, you’re leading people down a primrose path rather than telling them, look, we’ve gotta straighten things out. And that’s what Paul Ryan is trying to do, tell people that. He’s being honest.
Cenk Uygur: Right, he’s just being honest: we’re going to cut your medicare. But that’s OK, Ernie, just tell the American people, you’re being honest with them, there’s not enough money to give to the rich, to pay the rich, because they need a tax cut, because they get a tax cut in Ryan’s plan, from 35% to 25%, since there’s not enough money for the rich, you have to cut their medicare, right?
Ernest Istook: No, you ought to look at the Wall Street Journal today, it published the fact that if you take everybody in the country that makes more than a hundred thousand dollars a year and tax 100% of their taxable income, you still won’t cover the deficit. That’s taxing everybody that makes over a hundred thousand dollars a year and getting all of their revenue and it still isn’t enough money to do all what President Obama wants.
Cenk Uygur: But we’re not saying only look at revenue, look at revenue and spending. You guys are the ones saying only look at spending, but don’t look at revenue at all. But you didn’t answer the questions. Ryan’s plan wants to lower taxes for the rich from 35% to 25%, so you’re saying there’s just not enough money to pay for the rich, so we have to cut your medicare. Is that correct or incorrect?
Ernest Istook: Do you know who pays their fair share? The top 1% of income earners in the country paid 40% of the federal income tax.
Cenk Uygur: But you are not answering the question. You want to give them another tax cut, right? You want to give them another tax cut, yes or no?
Ernest Istook: Actually Ryan is saying bring the corporate rates down so companies quit sending jobs overseas and start having them in America.
Cenk Uygur: So the answer is yes, you want to lower taxes for the rich, and you are saying there’s not enough money for medicare.
Ernest Istook: I want to lower taxes for people who create jobs so that we can bring jobs back to America. The Heritage Foundation says will get a million jobs from Ryan’s plan.
Joan Walsh: Where are the jobs, Ernie? If they’re creating jobs, where are the jobs? We gave you guys a big tax cut, you got an enormous tax cut with the Bush tax cut, where are the jobs? Why in God’s name were jobs not created during the Bush administration if tax cuts for the rich create jobs? It’s pathetic, Ernie, you keep trotting this out.
Ernest Istook: Even Obama says the corporate tax rate has got to be reduced to bring jobs back to America.
Joan Walsh: But we’re talking about the personal tax rate, which Paul Ryan does reduce that top bracket to 25%, which is abominable. You were the people last year screaming about medicare, you’re going to hurt medicare…the Paul Ryan plan cuts medicare for seniors, it breaks the promise, and it says that we can’t be America anymore. That’s what the Paul Ryan plan does. The reason that we have medicare is that there is no private market for seniors, for people who are sick and elderly and getting sicker. He’s going to give them vouchers and say, fend for yourself, and that’s what medicare said we’re not going to do to our seniors anymore.
Ernest Istook: Ryan’s plan does not change medicare for anybody that’s over 55. He wants to change the future so that it will be sustainable and won’t go bankrupt and leave everybody with no coverage at all.
Joan Walsh: It doesn’t have to go bankrupt if the Republicans didn’t yell about death panels last year when President Obama was actually proposing in the bill to keep the costs down.
Cenk Uygur: Ernie, you’re saying that for people under 55, we’ve got to hurry up and cut medicare because otherwise we have to cut medicare. That’s a brilliant plan. But I want to ask you about the politics. You can spin it all you like, but the bottom line is when these Republicans vote to cut medicare, they are in a world of trouble, down in Florida, in Pennsylvania, some of the districts are heavily senior citizens, and you can spin it and spin it, but are they really going to vote that way? But is there some chance that Ryan’s plan is going to get voted down because the Republicans are going to say, I’m not going to touch that?
Ernest Istook: What would you rather have? Someone who promises you a million dollars and can’t deliver or someone who promises you less and you know it’s going to happen.
Cenk Uygur: Are the Republicans going to vote for the Ryan plan or not, that’s my question.
Ernest Istook: Well, we’re going to find out in the next 24 hours when it comes up for vote. I think you’ll see that it passes the House. Will it be unanimous among all Republicans? No. It probably won’t be unanimous among all the Democrats either.
Cenk Uygur: Joan, I just read that the Republicans are accusing President Obama of cutting medicare in his proposal…now, that’s rich.
Joan Walsh: If we were really ready to have a serious conversation and not playing partisan politics, we really can all agree that costs are going up all too quickly and that they are unsustainable. And there were smart things done in the affordable care act that tried to bring costs down to try to keep doctors from simply providing services to do preventive things rather than treat people after they get sick. There are innovative ways to talk about this. It was all described as death panel and last year it was really convenient for Republicans to scare seniors for the 2010 election by saying that Obama was going to hurt medicare. We need to collaborate on a way to keep costs down but this is not the way.
Cenk Uygur: If the Republicans are proud of it and they want to vote for cutting medicare, have at it, Hoss. I’ll be enjoying watching how it turns out.