Chait highlights perhaps the most ridiculous part of the NYT’s embarrassing Paul Ryan hagiography Erik highlighted earlier:
The magical-realism version of the Ryan platform involves heaping doses of empathy and wonkishness. As always, the evidence for this lies not in any concrete commitments but in promises lying somewhere over the horizon. The key passage from today’s Times story: “For example, if the Republican nominee does not provide an alternative to the Affordable Care Act — something Republicans have failed to do since it passed in 2010 — Mr. Ryan intends to do so, just as he will lay out an anti-poverty plan.”
Note the “intends to,” a phrase that captures Ryan’s uncanny ability to have his assurances taken at face value. Republicans have been promising that they were on the cusp of unveiling a party-wide alternative to the Obama administration’s health-care reform since the debate began in 2009, but they have never quite managed to do so. Republican alternatives to Obamacare have lain just over the horizon for half a dozen years, and oddly enough, the pace of their imminent unveiling appears to have increased. Consider a small sampling of the recent time frame. In January 2014, Ryan promised he would develop a Republican plan that year. By March, the Washington Post was reporting the unveiling of this plan as a fait accomplit…
The plan never came. In April of that year, it was still in development but due to come out extremely soon. “Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan are collaborating on an Obamacare alternative and could announce the proposal as early as this month, according to Republican sources,” reported the Washington Examiner.
The next year, Ryan renewed his commitment to reveal his plan very, very soon. In February, 2015, Ryan announced the plan would be out by the end of March. By the end of March, there was still no plan, but Ryan did declare that Republicans “must have a plan to replace Obamacare by late June.” June came and went, and summer turned to fall, and fall to winter. By December 2015, Ryan proclaimed the need for a Republican plan “urgent.”
By January of this year, Ryan — asked if the promised plan would come to a vote — said, “Nothing’s been decided yet.” Later that month, his spokesperson was insisting that many steps had yet to take place, and it was out of Ryan’s hands. “As the speaker has said many times, committees, not leadership, will be taking the lead on policy development,” Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong told the Washington Post. “The next step will be forming committee-led task forces that will hold listening sessions with Republican members … The task forces will then develop the specific policy.” Task forces, committees, listening sessions — there is just so much to do.
The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.
The fact that Republicans can claim to have an ACA replacement and anti-poverty plan forthcoming and be taken at face value by credulous journalists is about as pure a distillation of the felt necessity to present a “shape of the world, views differ” perspective as you can find. “I fully intend to put forward a replacement for Obamacare, really” is not even a complicated scam. It’s the most obvious and pathetic one: “my check’s on the mail” and “my Audi’s in the shop” from a man who has never made a payment on his loan and has been driving a ’93 Geo Metro since you met him six months ago. But it’s an iron law among a certain kind of journalist that there must be a Serious, Moderate Major Republican, and when the competition is the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Paul Ryan gets the gig purely by default.