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Blog Buzz: the Tea Party and the budget

A heated "Meet The Press" exchange between Freedomworks founder Dick Armey and Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm over Rep. Paul Ryan's entitlement reform proposals -- considered effective but drastic by some policy experts and observers -- was still being discussed today on the blogs.

According to a Washington Post summary of the plan earlier this month, it would would keep Medicare intact for people over the age of 55, but give those under 55 vouchers to pay for private insurance. These vouchers would grow more slowly than projected medical costs. The Medicare eligibility age would also gradually rise from 65 to 69.

On Social Security, Ryan proposes for benefits to be reduced for workers currently 54 or younger, and have the option of allocating some Social Security tax money into investment accounts.

Only 13 lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, which Armey said Sunday represented a lack of "courage" among congressional Republicans.

Liberal blogger Steve Benen at Washington Monthly's Political Animal disagreed with Armey on the substance of the bill, calling it "a right-wing fantasy," but cautioned against being "too quick to dismiss the larger political point of Dick Armey's complaints."

Benen suggested that the reform Ryan advocates put voice, in the form of unpalatable changes, to the kind of tough cuts Republicans would support if they weren't so politically unattractive.

"Ryan himself has conceded that his GOP colleagues are too afraid to endorse a plan they agree with: "They're talking to their pollsters and their pollsters are saying, 'Stay away from this.'To this extent, Armey raises a reasonable argument: if Paul is putting on paper what Republicans really believe, why don't they have the courage of their convictions? Why not have the guts to endorse a budget plan that reflects their actual thinking?" Benen wrote.

"Armey, who started FreedomWorks and is an instigator of the teabaggers, issued a warning to House and Senate GOPers: Get on board with the teabagger's agenda, which is enshrined in legislation sponsored by Rep. Paul 'Flim-Flam man' Ryan," wrote AMERICAblog's Joe Sudbay.

"Armey talks like he's got the power to defeat Republicans who don't get on board," Sudbay wrote, adding, "I love a good intra-GOP battle."

On the conservative side, HotAir's Allahpundit noted first that it was Granholm, not Armey, who brought up Ryan's plan: Gregory’s question has to do with tea-party candidates being out of the mainstream and she leaps from that to an attack on the roadmap. Partly that’s because Dems are in panic mode about losing seniors’ votes and figure that distorting Ryan’s plan is the best way to spook them into voting blue this fall. But as I’ve said before, part of it is also a function of Ryan being a serious policy thinker who’s not given to the sort of rhetorical excess that lends itself to the left’s 'all conservatives are kooks' message."

On the issue of the proposal's political salience, Allahpundit's observation almost mimicked those from the left: "I figure most tea partiers would love it as a show of fiscal conservative principle; centrists, who are loath to tinker with Social Security and Medicare, would likely freak out; and a third faction in the middle would welcome the move from a policy standpoint but would panic at the thought of Republicans handing the Dems a major opportunity to change the subject when they’re on the ropes. But then, that’s the problem with entitlements writ large, isn’t it? Everyone agrees that we need to talk about them — just not right now, when it’s politically inconvenient. Someday."

Watch the discussion here:

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