Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ryan’s Hype

A friend of mine who works on Capitol Hill once told me that there are two lobbying groups you don’t want to mess with: the NRA and AARP. The NRA because they have very deep pockets and they’re packing heat, and AARP because they have very deep pockets, too, and no one wants to pick a fight with their parents.

I am pretty sure that Rep. Paul Ryan is nice to the NRA; after all, he’s a Republican from a state — Wisconsin — that hosts a lot of hunters during deer season. But he probably shouldn’t be taking on the AARP.

With the House Republican budget agenda imposing new burdens and hardship on the elderly, it’s not surprising that AARP opposes the GOP vision and has said so. Given that Republicans want to end Medicare and gut Medicaid, the nation’s leading advocates for seniors should be expected to fight back.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), responsible for shaping his caucus’ agenda, appears to be have been rattled by all of this. He lashed out at AARP this week, blasting the organization as “a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry,” which is “intentionally misleading” the public. As Ryan sees it, AARP is in insurers’ back pocket, making it both corrupt and unreliable in the debate.

AARP shot back, telling Mr. Ryan that his bill would actually be good for AARP financially — they sell private health insurance — but they also look out for people who can’t afford to be without Medicare.

As Steve Benen notes, it looks like Mr. Ryan is beginning to find out that his fifteen minutes are almost up.

The far-right Wisconsin lawmaker is used to being treated as his party’s Golden Boy — a telegenic media darling who rarely hears a discouraging word. In recent weeks, however, Ryan has been booed by his own constituents; he’s seen polls showing overwhelming opposition to his agenda; and he’s seen his own caucus’ leaders back away from his Medicare plan.

Maybe he and Charlie Sheen can start a support group.