Romney fights back on Medicare
Since being introduced as Mitt Romney’s running mate, President Barack Obama’s campaign and Democrats have been hammering Paul Ryan over his budget proposal. The narrative at the moment is that Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know.”
The suggestion is absurd. Ryan’s plan, which was crafted with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) doesn’t touch Medicare for anyone 55 and older and only creates a a voucher system as an option to going along with the traditional program.
Romney is hitting back at Obama’s campaign on Medicare, emphasizing cuts to the government-run healthcare program that will be made as a result of ObamaCare — cuts that would have been made under Ryan’s budget, which has been noted by Ezra Klein and Avik Roy. But, as Philip Klein explains, there are dangers to Romney’s campaign if they focus too much on the issue:
In the past several days, Romney has attempted to turn the tables on Obama by noting that his own national health care law — Obamacare — cut Medicare significantly.
It’s true that Obamacare also cut Medicare by $700 billion. But while it’s tempting to attack Obama on this point, the danger is that it could turn the race into a finger-pointing match about who wants to cut Medicare more. This would reinforce the third-rail status of a program that’s desperately in need of an overhaul.
In 2010, back when Republicans were highlighting Obama’s Medicare cuts during the midterm elections, Ryan acknowledged, “We have to be careful about how we use our rhetoric so we don’t dig ourselves into an unsustainable fiscal path.”
The clear difference between Obama’s and Ryan’s approaches is that Obama would use the savings from Medicare cuts to pay for an entirely separate $1.7 trillion health care entitlement. Ryan, on the other hand, would use the savings to rescue Medicare and put it on a sustainable fiscal path. Obama’s law creates a new bureaucracy of 15 unelected officials to dictate how money should be spent, whereas Ryan’s proposal is aimed at giving seniors more control over those dollars.
Republicans may benefit from highlighting Obama’s cuts to Medicare. But if they do it the wrong way, they could handcuff themselves when it comes time to change Medicare.
Remember, the purpose of bringing Ryan on the ticket was to bring the focus of the race back on the economy. While that does include reform of long-term entitlements — such as Medicare, which faces $43 trillion in unfunded liabilities, this has traditionally been a very tough issue for Republicans.
Reforming entitlements is a task that will have to be undertaken at some point. The only real question is do we want to do it now or when federal spending has eclipsed 30% of GDP (not including local and state spending) and and more debt is being racked up as the United States?
You’re probably thinking that that sort of thing only happens in Europe. We’re not that far away, folks. Whether we have the discussion this year, with voters deciding the winner in November, or in 20 years; Americans will eventually have to face the fact that Medicare is a broken, poorly managed program that is dragging them down.