Paul Ryan Budget Backlash Heard Loud And Clear In Town Halls

Apr 27, 2011, 10:56 by John Steele

Republican supporters of Paul Ryan's "Path To Prosperity" budget proposal are facing a backlash from constituents in town hall meetings across the country this week. Last Tuesday, House budget chairman Paul Ryan was booed by hecklers in his own state. Freshman Rep. Daniel Webster was barely a minute into his prepared remarks Tuesday when the yelling started.

Ryan's plan would fundamentally restructure Medicare and make Medicaid into a block grant for states. According to MSNBC, this has caused confusion and anger amongst citizens under 55 and among the poor.

The GOP plan passed by the House this month envisions cutting government deficits by a total of $6.2 trillion over the next decade. One of its most contentious provisions calls for eventually transforming Medicare into a voucher-like system in which private insurance plans, not the government, pay medical bills. The plan has drawn scorn from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who want wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes to help reduce the deficit.

Webster's pie-chart of countries the U.S. is currently indebted to drew accusations from some in the crowd, calling the chart a "scare tactic." The highly partisan outbursts from both sides erupted quickly into chants and boos.

Webster responded, saying "There is nothing wrong with a clash of ideas. To me, the more policy we can make based on discussions like this, the better the policy is going to be because it reveals the blind spots people have, including me."

Ryan faced more civil crowds in Wisconsin, where some thanked him and expressed support for his dedication on the issues. But he also had his critics.

Ryan criticized Democrats for attacking his plan, but acknowledged the GOP has responded similarly to Democratic proposals. He said honest discussion is needed.
"Look, scaring seniors comes out every two years, and this time it's the Democrats trying to do it," Ryan said.

Ryan drew standing-room-only crowds at all four of his Tuesday meetings. Two were so full that dozens of constituents, along with press members, were denied entry. The only venue that drew obvious protesters was Kenosha, Wis., where about 80 people stood with signs such as "Ryan Hood Steals From US And Gives To The Rich" and "Paul Ryan Stop Lyin'."