Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich have had a bit of a testy relationship over the past year. Gingrich called Ryan's plan "right-wing social engineering" on Meet the Press in April. "With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan shot back the next day.
Gingrich later apologized, and Ryan said in late October, prior to the Gingrich surge, that "there was never a hatchet to bury really [with Gingrich]. He said what he said. And what happened happened.... I ran into him the other day at the airport. We’re fine. I talked to him. He emails me fairly often."
But in an interview with National Review's Bob Costa, Ryan takes a fresh shot at Gingrich in response to Gingrich's comments on Mitt Romney and Medicare reform.
Gingrich said in an interview with Coffee & Markets that Republicans should not "impose" solutions that are "very, very unpopular." Ryan takes issue with what he takes to be the thrust of Gingrich's remarks, and says, "This is not the 1990s... The ‘Mediscare’ is not working and we should not back down from this fight."
What's odd here is that Gingrich and Ryan are arguing about a Medicare proposal that hasn't been endorsed by any Republican.
"Romney doesn't exactly tell you what the details are.... I'm going to assume some details here. You can go to Romney and ask him if I got it right, and if I didn't get it right, he can tell you," Gingrich says in his Coffee & Markets interview. "If what [Romney] is suggesting is a mandatory premium support plan including people currently on Medicare, he is talking about a politically impossible proposal."
Gingrich is right that such a plan would be "politically impossible"--but neither Ryan, nor Romney, nor any other Republican has proposed such a plan. Romney has not specified when his plan would kick in, but he has been clear it would not alter Medicare for those currently on it. "First, Medicare should not change for anyone in the program or soon to be in it," Romney said in his speech on Medicare reform in November.
Romney's plan would provide premium support for future beneficiaries, who would have the option to use it to buy private insurance or buy into government-run Medicare. Ryan called this option a "fine idea worth considering." It is, or was, the same plan that Gingrich endorsed.
In 'assuming' false details of Romney's Medicare plan, Gingrich has done to Romney exactly what Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama did to Paul Ryan and Republicans who voted for Medicare reform earlier this year.
Update: Avik Roy writes at Forbes that Gingrich's proposal differs from Romney's:
Gingrich’s policy proposal is unworkable. Basically what he wants to do is create a Newtified version of Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage only started becoming popular when the government decided to subsidize it at higher levels than traditional Medicare. (I describe the background of this problem here.)
Simply put, there is no way to save money without rationing seniors’ care, or giving seniors more responsibility for its cost. And few seniors, faced with the choice of open-bar unlimited-buffet health care vs. a cost-sharing, market-oriented approach, will choose the latter. Because the open bar is a far better deal.
Gingrich is a smart guy. Or so he keeps telling us. So he must know this. And if he does, the question must be asked: if he knows his plan is unworkable, why isn’t he advocating something better?