The more the Democrats criticize this plan, the more it helps Ryan and the more it hurts the Democrats. It reframes sticker shock, and the entire debate, simply to argue about $6 trillion in budget cuts.
A lot of the political strategizing I’m hearing from DC commentators assumes that the occupants of flyover country are sitting in their trailers obsessing over the deficit. Perhaps that’s true, but even if they are, the working class regular Americans that I know don’t think that Medicare or Social Security has much to do with the rest of the government budget, for the simple reason that their payroll stub lists FICA and witholding on different lines. And, in their minds, any attempt to cut those programs is essentially theft — it’s politicians stealing their retirement savings in order to deal with the rest of the budget.
Defending Medicare from Republicans is bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes, apple pie politics, and even a group of useless pants shitters like our current crop of Democrats have the ability to campaign against cutting Medicare. Maybe the “lock box” wasn’t the worlds greatest political metaphor, but it tied into a real belief about how those programs are financed, and that belief is far stronger than whatever Paul Ryan is peddling this week.
If you walked into the living room of any trailer court in the country and ask if you should cut Medicare to finance the rest of the budget, you’ll get a “No”. If you throw in a bit of talk about the size of bonuses bankers are getting because of the taxpayer-funded bailout, you’ll get a “Fuck No”. Anyone who doesn’t understand that hasn’t canvassed a trailer court, or lived in one. I’ve done both, and I’m here to tell you the politics of this are dirt simple.