Thinking health care at the fair

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, as we’ve all heard by now, was greeted by hecklers during his appearance Monday at the Iowa State Fair.

Ryan – after the obligatory shout-out to any Packer fans in his audience, and a suggestion that the fair implement a wristband day – launched into his remarks. The relentless, non-stop heckling was accompanied by cheers and applause and even some Olympics-style “USA” chants.

While not generally known for his drollery, Ryan did get off at last one zinger. “My guess is, the reason President Obama isn’t making it here from Council Bluffs is, he only knows left turns.” Oh, snap!

If Ryan pitched any actual policy during his 12 minute speech, it was to call for tax reform.

“President Obama is telling America’s successful small businesses, that he wants their top tax rate to go as high as 44 percent. The Canadians just lowered their tax rate to all of their businesses in January, to 15 percent. We need to make sure that we get rid of the loopholes, get rid of the deductions, lower everybody’s tax rates, so our businesses can survive, and not keep taxing our small businesses and spending that money in Washington.”

Ryan also reasserted Mitt Romney‘s widely refuted claim that President Obama has waived work requirements for welfare.

“The work requirements in welfare reform did more to help the poor, did more to reduce child poverty, than any reform that we’ve seen in a generation. And President Barack Obama just passed a rule waiving those work requirements. That’s going to send us in the wrong direction. That’s the wrong way to go. We want to give people hands up, not hand outs.”

Ryan didn’t specifically mention Medicare or Medicaid during his remarks in Iowa. The sorts of changes he’s proposed to the federal health-care programs for the poor and elderly might have provided food for thought to those in attendance. But, if they were anything like the crowds I saw Sunday at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, they were more likely just thinking of food.

I’m going to digress here. I haven’t been to a state fair in well over 20 years, and I must say the experience was eye-opening. And not neccessarilly in a good way. The most recent rankings on obesity in the U.S. ranked Wisconsin at 24th, but you’d never know it from observing the crowds at the fair, where caloric intake rules the day. Our nation’s obesity epidemic (and our obsession with what used to be called tattoos, which I understand have now been elevated to “body art”) was on full display. Shape distorting funhouse mirrors, it would seem, are no longer necessary. Lets just say that a fair visit nicely illustrates some of the health care challenges policy makers in Washington and Madison have to grapple with.

From cream puffs to fried foods on a stick to lots and lots of beer, the state fair offers mind-boggling abundance to seemingly somnolent crowds trudging from one venue to the next. In the interest of full disclosure, this correspondent consumed a bratwurst, a taco, a root beer, part of a turkey leg, an ear of buttered sweet corn, and of course a cream puff. I did not have any fried foods on a stick or a bacon maple sundae. I’m hoping that sort of willpower will keep me off a motorized scooter (you know, the ones Medicare covers) for at least a few more years. I think I’d better keep riding my bike to work, and working towards the goal of doing 100 daily¬†push-ups. ¬†


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