August 16, 2012
FUNNY, THEY DON'T SEEM DEMONIC:
The Liberal Who Worked With Paul Ryan : Will Sen. Ron Wyden's Cross-the-Aisle Plan Haunt Democrats? (Nathan Guttman, August 16, 2012,, The Forward)
In their willingness to partner across party lines on Medicare, Ryan, who is Catholic, and Wyden also challenged the consensus positions of their respective faith communities, both of which oppose cutting health care plans for the elderly."Although many of us had very positive interactions with Senator Wyden, his position on this issue was out of sync with the community and with the majority of community organizations," said Hadar Susskind, director of Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish advocacy organization.Polling data support the notion that American Jews are not open to cutting government investment in Medicare. A 2005 wide-ranging survey found Jews to be the religious group most supportive of increasing government spending on health care. In more recent polls, Jews placed their concern over health care as one of the top factors in deciding who should get their vote.According to the plan presented by Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, instead of having the government pay for seniors' health care costs through Medicare, they will be provided with vouchers to use for purchasing medical insurance from either Medicare or private insurers. But the vouchers are not designed to keep up with annual health insurance premium increases over time. And the costs that exceed the allowance would come out of the seniors' pockets. The rationale behind Ryan's plan was to introduce competitiveness into the program in the hope that it would decrease costs and rein in the growing expense of health plans.Jewish organizations have spoken out against Ryan's proposals, which would affect many seniors in the community. The federation system of Jewish social service agencies that serve many of those seniors also relies heavily on funding from Medicare and Medicaid to do so.Last April, the Jewish Federations of North America, a community umbrella organization, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs wrote a letter to members of Congress, urging them to oppose reforms such as those offered by Ryan. "Major entitlement programs," the letter stated, "protect the health and economic security of our most vulnerable citizens."Wyden declined to make himself available to the Forward for comment on how his Jewish values have interacted with his thinking on Medicare.As for Ryan, he, too, took a stance opposed to the consensus position of his faith -- though, the church being the church, that consensus is officially articulated by its religious leadership. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reacting to Ryan's remark that his budget proposals were shaped by his Catholic beliefs, sent a letter to Congress, arguing that the plans fails to meet "moral criteria" because of the cuts it proposes to programs serving the poor and vulnerable.Ryan's views on abortions and religious rights are in full accord with those of the Catholic Church, but on economic issues the church leadership in the United States has traditionally supported a robust social safety net.For Wyden, joining forces with Ryan to compose the Medicare reform proposals later known as the Ryan-Wyden plan was an opportunity to offer a practical solution for an entitlement program whose costs are growing out of control. "Wyden-Ryan doesn't privatize Medicare because Medicare beneficiaries already have the option of enrolling in private health insurance plans," Wyden argued in an article published in March. "Wyden-Ryan makes those private plans more robust and accountable by forcing them to -- for the first time -- compete directly with traditional Medicare."Wyden has focused much of the work he does on Capitol Hill on tackling health care issues and working for seniors, a passion he's been carrying since his early years in public service. He strongly supported President Obama's Affordable Care Act and, despite his Medicare reform work with Ryan, he ended up voting against Ryan's broad budget plan, of which the Medicare reform was a part.In public comments he has made on the issue, Wyden explained that he still thought the ideas raised in his joint proposal with Ryan on Medicare would help save that program.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2012 8:46 AM