It worked for President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, when he took tax cuts - a conservative issue - and made it his own. Now, liberals are employing a similar tactic in promoting their health care agenda.
But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., isn't having it. He called out Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the left wing The Nation magazine and MSNBC guest co-host, for attempting it in questioning him in a MSNBC segment on July 29. vanden Heuvel asked Ryan why he was against a so-called public health insurance option. His opposition, she reasoned, would deny consumers the choice of a public option in the marketplace.
"Rep. Ryan, that sounds like an anti-competitive vote," vanden Heuvel said. "Competition is at the heart of America and to deny Americans competition by denying them an option of a public plan seems to me un-American."
But, the Wisconsin congressman observed that her paean to competition as an American ideal was antithetical to what she actually advocated - which is a single-payer government plan, as she as written about before.
"You know what's weird about that line right there, Katrina, is I know you and others are very much in a favor of a single-payer plan, which is obviously to deny competition and have the government run it all," Ryan said. "What's concerning about this debate with me is you're using capitalist rhetoric to try and move a plan that is inherently anti-market."
Ryan explained once the government becomes a competitor in the health insurance, it has the ability to run other competitors out of the market because it makes the rules and has unlimited resources.
"The problem is the facts tell us this - the public plan option quickly becomes a government-run monopoly," Ryan explained. "The reason is, the public plan has so many inherent advantages against the private sector that the private sector can't fairly compete, and what the actuaries are telling us is in a few short years the public plan option displaces the private sector. Employers dump employees on the public plan and they have no choices but the public plan."
That hardly sounds like the free competition vanden Heuvel had talked about.
"And so, let's not try and sell a government-run plan using free market rhetoric," Ryan said. "Let's have an honest debate about what this bill is all about."