Ryan positioned to lead entitlement reform

Political Beat

Social Security and Medicare changes could become key election topics next year, with Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville now leading Republicans as speaker in the House of Representatives.

Republican conservatives are demanding changes in America’s entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan has long been pushing to change those programs where much of government spending occurs.

Ryan has backed the idea of partially privatizing Social Security. On Medicare, he is seen as a person who could promote the conservatives’ idea of converting Medicare to a program in which recipients get vouchers and then buy their own health insurance.

Medicaid – the state-federal medical program for the poor – may offer an easier solution for the folks in Washington. The federal government could solve its own budget woes by sending grants to the 50 state governments and letting them devise care for the poor and disabled.

If additional money is needed, state tax dollars could fill the gaps. Proponents say state governments are better at solving social problems.

In addition, Social Security already has bubbled up in next year’s race between Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold, who are competing for a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. Johnson won the Senate seat in 2010 by defeating Feingold as part of the Tea Party election landslide. Feingold had served 18 years in the Senate, but once-defeated ex-incumbents rarely are returned.

Johnson has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and has said it’s a shame that it has not yet been privatized. Feingold champions the current Social Security program as he campaigns across the state.

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