Almost from the moment it was announced, the Republicans' Romney-Ryan ticket began already drawing fire for both men's plans for the "voucherization of Medicare." As it turns out, there's another reason Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should worry America's seniors and the millions more soon to join them. Both supported President Bush's aborted scheme to privatize Social Security, only to run away from their past positions after its staggering unpopularity and the 2008 meltdown of the U.S. financial system revealed that Republican path to be political suicide.
As Ryan Grim and others highlighted, Rep. Ryan was at the forefront of George W. Bush's 2005 effort to divert contributions from the Social Security trust fund into private accounts. (He would later agree with Texas Governor Rick Perry that Social Security is "a Ponzi scheme.") To enable their Republican colleagues sell the concept to their skeptical constituents, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) authored a presentation full of helpful talking points, such as:
"Your audience doesn't know how trillions and billions differ. They know these numbers are large, but not how large nor how many billions make a trillion. Boil numbers down to 'your family's share.' Also avoid percentages; your audience will try to calculate them in their head--no easy task while listening to a speech--and many will do it incorrectly."
As it turned out, of course, it was the Republicans who were doing the math wrong. As Matthew Yglesias summed it up last year:
What privatizers want to say is that current retirees will keep getting benefits and future retirees will be okay despite our lack of benefits because we'll have private accounts. But current retirees can't get benefits if my money is in a private account. And my account can't be funded if I'm paying benefits for current retirees.