...I think, was that Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to 'save' Medicare basically amounts to cutting out the Middleman without tackling the question of whether it is the proper role of government to provide medical insurance to it's citizens at all.
Medicare is Socialism. This cannot be gainsaid; any attempt to paint it otherwise, to obscure this truth, is cynical and ultimately futile. The government had no business handing out health insurance, just as it had no business in creating a Ponzi-scheme disguised as a retirement plan.
If I understand Rep. Ryan's plan, it will basically 'give' vouchers to seniors so that they may buy insurance on the open market. In the process, the Medicare bureaucracy that sprang up to administer the program would slowly fade away as the "Free Market" (we don't have free markets in this country), through the magic of competition set up a regime of superior care at lower cost, and relieved the Federal Government of the responsibility of having to administer the program itself.
When that happens, you could fire all those useless bureaucrats who are collecting bloated salaries and expecting even more gargantuan retirement benefits, thus 'saving' The System, and relieving the taxpayer of an onerous burden.
The 'reform' would, basically, keep Medicare in place; it would only change the way in which your dose of socialism gets delivered. Your choice: you can take it through a 'voucher' or keep the old anally-injected delivery system. The end result is still the same.
If Medicare is socialism, brought into being by the spirit of Great Society Social Engineering, then, naturally, any reform that keeps the basic premise underlying it alive is still 'social engineering'.
Ryan's plan only makes sense if it is an interim step towards eventually eliminating government interference in the health care market. Otherwise, it's simply a welfare pig in a new shade of lipstick. If the ultimate goal is not to eliminate Medicare altogether, then one has to assume that Ryan's reforms are simply a way in which to make the same old social welfare payments to the same old people, only in a way that conservatives who don't think too deeply (this is a large number, btw) just won't recognize as welfare.
Welfare is bad because it's expensive for the taxpayer to provide it, and it comes with a laundry list of rules, regulations, and other government 'interference' with the rights of the individual. The government enacts these rules and regulations in order to influence certain behavior, and many of the behaviors government is encouraging are often morally questionable and an assault upon Constitutional Rights...
...unless a conservative gets to make the rules and regulations and encourage the behaviors they want to encourage, and then it becomes a 'reform of a badly-flawed and bankrupt system'. Newt is essentially correct in his assertion that Ryan's Plan, at first blush, is right-wing social engineering, just as much as the current system is the result of left-wing social engineering.
The solution is to have no government-run medical insurance scheme whatsoever. However, this would deprive politicians and bureaucrats of either political stripe the ability to interfere with your life in ever-more esoteric and subtle ways.
I really believe that Rep. Ryan wants to cut 6 trillion bucks out of the National Debt and realizes that the process is going to be painful for some, and certainly cause tremendous uproar in these United States, and so he thinks to cushion the blows through gradualism. 'Privatization', though, is a conservative buzzword for keeping the basic structure of entitlements -- i.e. handing out tax payer money, mostly to people who don't pay much in taxes -- while making sure the money ultimately finds it's way to Big Business through the magic of the 'Free Market'. It doesn't matter if you call it a 'voucher system' or a 'government check', it's still the same thing; a direct subsidy to the insurance industry, only under Ryan's plan, it passses through fewer hands.
It's still welfare, though. A True Free Market solution would be to let people have to fend for themselves, and those who can't or won't, will simply have to suffer the consequences of their laziness and short-sightedness. But then Rachel Maddow calls you nasty names on (P)MSNBC,and you have to contnue to defend and explain yourself, and the whole thing gets rather tiring and annoying. Better to go the incrementalist route, and just rebrand the whole thing.
It's not the conservative's (small 'c' intentional) job to 'reform' fundamentally-flawed programs so that they merely cost less; it's to eliminate fundamentally-flawed programs that cost too much, run contrary to American Constitutional principles and which infringe upon the Individual's Rights. Any system which eliminates the aspect of Moral Hazard or repsonsibility on the part of the recipient is also bad juju.
Now that sort of reform -- blowing the thing up entirely, and putting the responsibility for your own welfare back onto the individual -- would be a true conservative solution to many of the problems we face today, but since there are no more true conservatives (and the ones who usually claim that mantle are more concerned with the Afterlife than they are with this one, so they don't really count), don't expect to ever see it happen.
Newt's real sin in this case was not so much to criticize Ryan for not going far enough, it was to provide the Other Side with a soundbite that's going to be pinned to every GOP-wannabe between now and 2012. And that douche who confronted Newt over his comment in Iowa is exactly the sort of 'conservative' I'd like to see tarred and feathered; he's worried about tactics at the expense of grand strategy, and how it plays in the Press.
Propaganda, it seems, still takes precedence over prudence in American Politics, unfortunately.
And that's really troubling, because Newt's supposed to be the smartest guy in the room, and he should have known this when he made the comment.
Even if you gave the democrats (small 'd' intentional) the opportunity to say "Even Newt Gingrich is against this..." it doesn't change the crux of the issue, which is:
How can you justify the contiunued existance of an unconstitutional, super-expensive, super-intrusive, flawed, destructive, out-of-control, politically-manipulated Entitlement Program which has cost far more than was ever envisioned, provides fewer services, and is rife with fraud, waste and abuse, in a day-and-age of $14 trillion dollar National Debts, high rates of unemployment and shrinking tax bases?
The only response available to democrats on this question is a simple appeal to emotion and class warfare, their stocks-in-trade. Any conservative worth his salt should easily be able to defeat emotion and class-warfare with reason, logic and The Constitution. If you, as a conservative, are worried that Newt's response gave the dems 'ammunition', you're worried about people armed with water pistols and slingshots, while we have Stealth Bombers and Atomic Bombs.
You have to utter but one sentence to kill any democratic objection that Ryan's Plan, or any other reform of Entitlements, are 'cruel', 'mean', or 'will throw Grandma out into the street":
"Keeping the system as-is requires huge tax increases, and more power vested in Washington. That formula has worked so well up to now, hasn't it?"
Update: Corrected a minor spelling error. Apologies!