In writing about Sarah Palin's perspective on the issue of the debt ceiling, Andrew Sullivan raises several good points that are worth reading. Particularly, I found his comment regarding what he says the core of the "'conservative' movement" seeks: "a desire to smash existing institutions and to 'fundamentally restore' the American status quo before the Great Society, and even, the New Deal."
I've long understood that the goal of many "conservatives" was to return the country to a time before the implementation of the New Deal (particularly Social Security). The programs of the Great Society (Medicare and Medicaid specifically), I think, completely offends the sensibilities of this lot. Yet, there is a problem: many supporters of "conservative" elected officials really love Medicare and Social Security. Why else would Paul Ryan try his level best to run from the notion that his proposal kills the program? Why else would he try desperately to assure current seniors that their benefits will not be touched at all?
I think that if the GOP wants to begin getting rid of the social safety net, then they need to concentrate their efforts on Medicaid. Because Medicaid focuses exclusively on the needs of the poor, I think that its demise would be met with less resistance overall. And if you think about the news coverage on the Republican budget, the focus has really been on the popular Medicare program, not Medicaid. Medicare has a constituency that politicians will listen to, while Medicaid has a constituency that is seen as suspect.
I think that there is no question about the end game for the current crop of "conservative" elected officials. The social safety net is something that they believe, philosophically, the nation not only can't afford, but that it also shouldn't be in the business of having. I think that by attacking Medicaid before the bigger prizes of Medicare and Social Security, the GOP will find that they will be in a better position to claim that prize. New Jersey just might be able to show the way.