House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) this week launched a little tirade against the Affordable Care Act, which stood out for its tenuous relationship with reality. "Whatever the Supreme Court decides this month, I think the lesson is clear. Obamacare is busted," the far-right congressman said
. "It just doesn't work."
But Ryan kept going. The L.A. Times'
Michael Hiltzik flagged this gem
yesterday, noting the Wisconsinite's take on the King v. Burwell
case pending at the Supreme Court.
An adverse Court ruling could strip an estimated 6.5 million people of subsidies worth some $21 billion a year, forcing many of them to give up insurance they acquired thanks to Obamacare. Ryan seemed to think that would be a good thing, or at least that providing subsidies so people can have coverage is a bad thing. The federal government, he said, "has sent millions of subsidies out the door, putting millions of people at risk." Interesting outlook: he's saying that helping people puts them at risk, and a lawsuit backed by the Republican establishment that would strip away that assistance will be good for them.
In Ryan's mind, a law that provides health security to families necessarily puts those families in peril.
It's a genuinely bizarre worldview -- "Obamacare" puts consumers "at risk." At risk of what? Of getting screwed over by a Republican political war that treats consumers like collateral damage.
Making matters slightly worse, Sahil Kapur
Bloomberg Politics report, which reinforced fears that Paul Ryan simply doesn't know what he's talking about.
Republicans, who have led the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, will act to support people who would lose subsidies under a ruling against the Obama administration, Representative Paul Ryan said. "We will have a Republican alternative to deal with this, so that people who are caught in the crossfire of this unconstitutional law -- should the court determine that it's unconstitutional -- have a way to go," Ryan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview. Ryan provided no details of the legislation.
The failed V.P. candidate apparently doesn't know this, but King v. Burwell
isn't a challenge to the law's constitutionality. In fact, that case was resolved several years ago, and Ryan's side lost
. King v. Burwell
is a question of statutory interpretation -- how to interpret five stray words out of context -- not the constitutionality of the law.
How could Ryan, ostensibly one of his party's leading figures
on health care policy, not know this? And if he does know this, why is he saying the opposite?
There are all kinds of political and ideological questions in the health care debate, and there's ample room for opinions. But Ryan isn't even up to speed on basic facts.
Or maybe he is
fluent on the details, but Ryan believes he can fool the public. Jonathan Bernstein argued
a few months ago that the Ways & Means chairman "thinks we're fools." Bernstein added, "Just how stupid does Paul Ryan think we are?"
If his health care arguments this week are any indication, Ryan may think we'll fall for anything.
I get the sense that much of the Beltway has already provided the far-right congressman with his "Officially Recognized Wonk" membership card, and evidence won't shake the impression that Ryan cares deeply about substance and policy details.
But for those who care to notice, the frequency with which Paul Ryan makes absurd claims should cast doubt over his credibility.