This morning, BPI’s Professor of Astrology Janitor asked me to help him test the tail lights on the campus shuttle. I had a few minutes until lunch, so out I stood behind the shuttle while he pushed buttons and pedals and knobs, watching the and lights chittering twice for “On” and once for “Off.”

“How about now?” he asked.

“On. Off. On. Off. On….” I chittered.

“That’s the turn signal,” he said. “It’s supposed to do that.”

Oh. I thought it was like the House Republican budget plan.

A few weeks ago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced the plan. Among other things, it would replace Medicare with a private insurance voucher system that would increase seniors’ out-of-pocket health care costs by an estimated $6000 per year once the plan took effect. House Republicans voted for the plan in April, and pundits fawned over Rep. Ryan with words like “courageous” … as if it takes courage to deprive the needy while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

Constituents were not impressed, and when Republicans headed home for town halls during the Easter Recess, the reception was angry and loud. Many of those constituents were seniors who wouldn’t be affected by the GOP plan, as it wouldn’t change Medicare for Americans aged 55 or over. Perhaps conveniently, most of those 55-and-older Americans voted for Republicans in 2008 and 2010. But those seniors have children and grandchildren, and most aren’t as selfish as Republicans seem to have hoped. The outrage was widespread enough that House GOP freshmen asked President Obama and Democrats to stop “using issues to get votes.” I guess they thought voters should focus on other things … maybe flag pins or birth certificates or something.

On May 5th, the Washington Post reported that House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) had decided to drop the Medicare changes. Representative Cantor’s office quickly denied that and supported the plan, but Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the “political realities” – a Democratic-controlled Senate, a certain presidential veto, and polls showing huge public disapproval for the GOP plan – meant it would not happen. House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) announced that he would not push the plan. On Meet the Press yesterday, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called it “radical” and “social engineering.”

But in an address to the Economic Club in Chicago today, Rep. Ryan is expected to pitch the plan yet again. Reports say he’ll claim he’s trying to save Medicare, and say Democrats are willing to let the program slowly starve. In a sane world, he’d be laughed out of the room, as his party has long embraced Grover Norquist’s dream to “starve government until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub.” In this world, Republicans are shameless about accusing Democrats of doing what the GOP try to do, so Rep. Ryan probably won’t be laughed out of the room after all.

Like many radical Republican ideas, privatizing Medicare will continue being a blinker – voting for it, saying the vote was only symbolic, praising it as “courageous,” explaining they meant “courageous” only in the sense of “raising the issue.”

For Democrats, that would be called “flip-flopping.” For Republicans, it’s called “threading a needle.”

I call it the Red Blinker of ‘Courage’: On, Off, On, Off….