Democrats scored a political victory on May 24 by winning a special election in a Republican congressional bastion in upstate New York where Medicare was the main issue. They should enjoy it while they can because this momentary triumph will turn to ashes if they think they can win next year’s national elections on the slogan that they did nothing to stop the soaring cost of Medicare. Poll after poll shows that the American people are worried about the budget and the unsustainable national debt. Medicare is the biggest contributor to the debt and the annual budget deficit. Doing nothing is not an option.
But too many Americans like to have their cake and eat it, too. When proposed cuts affect the benefits they receive from entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, they balk. Don’t touch my Medicare! In New York’s 26th Congressional District race, Democrats successfully preyed on those fears by claiming the GOP’s reform plan would victimize seniors.
In fact, the plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wouldn’t affect seniors over 55 and would not take full effect until 2021. Claiming that it amounts to throwing Grandma off the train is sheer demagoguery. It’s as phony as the notion of “death panels” leveled at President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
Yet even without the hype, Ryan’s plan is flawed and impractical.
A serious solution for Medicare and deficit reduction will require presidential leadership, and so far Obama has been unwilling to grab the baton. Ultimately, no deal is possible until Republicans and Democrats agree on a bipartisan solution. The sooner both sides realize that and stop making false claims about each other’s plans, the sooner a deal can be achieved.
The Miami Herald (May 31)