Newt Gingrich made an astonishing performance on “Meet the Press” when he attacked Paul Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare as being “too radical.” Gingrich was somewhat vague as to what he would offer instead.
According to National Review, Gingrich said, “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.” He apparently did not specify why he thinks that the Ryan plan is “right-wing social engineering.”
Ryan’s Medicare plan would turn Medicare into a premium subsidy service in which seniors would buy insurance packages in the private market. People with more need, because of income or health conditions, would get a higher subsidy.
In its stead Gingrich offered a vague proposal to allow people to, “voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options.” How different that is from the Ryan plan he failed to mention.
Gingrich also suggested that there be a “national conversation” about ways to improve Medicare. He also promised to eliminate “waste, fraud and abuse.”
This seems to be a manifestation of Gingrich the political opportunist and not Gingrich the big idea man. Gingrich evidently sees that a great many people have reservations about Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare. Rather than use his considerable skills as a teacher of public policy to explain why the Ryan plan, or at least something like it, is necessary, Gingrich has decided to get on what he considers the right political side and to go after the Ryan plan.
It is a truism in the more cynical of political circles that the last thing a politician should do is be courageous. Taking courageous stands on public issues may be the right thing to do, but it has a tendency to cause one to lose an election. In his stance on Medicare reform, Gingrich is following this principle. True he has also come out against Obamacare, but that is also a popular stance to take. Gingrich is setting out to do a classic, Clinton-style triangulation, being against both “left-wing and right-wing” social engineering.
Gingrich is also likely spooked by the bad experience he had during the government shut-down fiasco on 1995. That confrontation between Gingrich, then speaker of the House, and Bill Clinton, then president, was over in part a plan to trim $270 billion from the growth of Medicare. Clinton successfully demagogued the proposal and won a considerable political triumph. Gingrich does not propose to let that happen again. Unfortunately he is proposing to do so not by learning what did not work in 1995 and thus fighting more effectively, but by refusing to fight. That is odd behavior from a man who proposes to be president of the United States.
Source: Newt Tacks Left, Slams Ryan’s Medicare Plan, Andrew Stiles, National Review, May 15, 2011