Essay: Ryan Budget Blowback Should Scare the GOP in Iowa, and Elsewhere

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) with the Republicans' 2012 budget proposal, dubbed 'The Path to Prosperity.'

The debate over budget cuts and the changing role of the federal government now revolves around the GOP "Ryan Plan." This will be central to the 2012 elections and the Iowa Presidential Caucuses.

The many experts who have scrutinized it conclude that neither it nor the "Obama Plan" come anywhere close to balancing outlays and revenue. Most conclude that without a new flow of revenue through taxes the United States will slog on slowly dying from a thousand cuts. Another powerful critique is the discussion over changes in Medicare, Medicaid, and farm programs (at least for Iowa 2012).

One of the hottest races in Iowa will pit conservative Republican Steven King who’s new 4th district (Iowa lost a district in this reapportionment) now includes Story county where Iowa State University is located, against Christie Vilsack, wife of former governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The smarts birds on my widow sill have been telling me that Vilsack could give King a run for his money and maybe even beat him.

The secret formula?

One of them, a wise old former small town mayor in Iowa, let's call him Petroleum J. Saparilla, told me “She needs to come out of the chute now before even announcing she’s running and say “ Steve King is bad for the Fourth district because his Republican party wants to abolish Medicare, slash farm programs, cut spending for rural community development, privatize Social Security, do away with healthcare for the poor and give millionaires another big tax cut.”

“You know what Steve,” he said (he always calls me Steve) “She’s gotta scare the hell out of the seniors and that 4th is a pretty gray, older, rural district.” He added, “She’s gotta say that our decent and caring way of life in Iowa is being threatened by a bunch of out of state lobbyists and big money from the East Coast and Texas.”

But Vilsack, inexplicably, is wasting a lot of precious time with an “exploratory committee” while the GOP, special interest groups, and King have already fired the first round and will have her painted as a big spending liberal before May arrives. She does not need any exploratory committee (as she will likely get a ton of outside money.)

The Ryan budget proposal is a political IED. In the last couple of days we’ve seen angry mobs at town hall meetings with GOP congress folks back in their districts.

This year and 2012 will be a very bad year for billionaires and millionaires politically - I guarantee it. They have gone too far in their bonus excesses; the politicians that lap out of their money bowls have gone too far in shifting the burden of the military, medical and other programs to the middle class.

In Iowa there is panic starting to set in among GOP activists who have now lost the “birther” battle with Obama posting his long form birth certificate on the White House web site. And they are also panicked that an arrogant, loud mouth, New York multi millionaire is first in some GOP presidential polls.

Petroleum liked my comment in my recent blog where I wrote, “I suggest that y'all start a discussion about this with either yourself, your grandma, uncle, neighbor or anyone you know who's on Medicare. Try to figger out if it's a plus or a minus to dismantle the existing system which we’ve had for 80 years and let you and them buy healthcare from private insurance companies.”

The reason the Vilsack race could have a big impact on the GOP presidential preferences in Iowa is that it is a clash of titans – the Tea Party champion King in one corner; the Democratic alternative in the other.

If in the next months King's electability and poll numbers fall the GOP will be looking at why and asking if the Tea Party message may be too threatening to a majority of voters.

Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, author of 11 books, 40 years analyzing the Iowa Caucuses, Des Moines Register blogger, and Chief Political and International Correspondent for insideriowa.com