The worst irony of our political system is that the party that wants to gut Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid — the three programs that have combined have cut the senior poverty rate from about 35 percent to about 10 — is in only power because of the votes of senior citizens.
It’s time to change that — or at least make a huge dent in the Republican coalition.
Nearly all conservatives want to make massive cuts all three of seniors’ favorite government programs. Usually they couch these suggestions with promises that they won’t affect current seniors without mentioning that their massive cuts to Medicaid would immediately inflict great stress and harm on the most vulnerable older Americans.
Democrats held the Congress for decades touting their devotion to the safety net created by the New Deal and Great Society. When they lost the Congress in 2010, it was partially because of a huge lie that suggested they’d gutted Medicare to pay for Obamacare. What actually happened is that new benefits were added for seniors as the life of the program was extended from 2017 to 2030. The program is now more sustainable than it has been for decades — just when we needed it the most.
Democrats underestimated what a gift Mitt Romney gave them by picking Paul Ryan as his running mate. Republicans see a good looking young guy who loves Led Zeppelin, Ayn Rand, and Jesus, who they assume are all characters in the Bible. But most of America just knows him as the guy who wants take their health insurance.
After Ryan was literally booed at an AARP convention, he was mostly hidden for the home stretch of the 2012 election.
Amazingly, Republicans are about to make the same mistake again by making him the face of the Republican House of Representatives. His budgets have all been some variation on “pass the cost of Medicare to seniors so we can afford to give the rich more tax cuts they don’t need.” And this budget has passed the House over and over.
Ryan’s plans look mild compared to the man who is now leading the polls in the GOP primary in Iowa — Dr. Ben Carson.
His wacked out prescription?
He would “eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions.”
His thought is that poor people and seniors can be left alone with bank account to face the unknown costs of illness and aging. He’d offer $2,000 a year, which would last a cancer patient maybe one visit to the doctor.
It’s unthinkable cruelty to propose getting rid of a system that offers the lowest costs in America and replacing it with a gift card that will run out before you’re even diagnosed. And it’s political napalm. Medicare and Social Security are more popular than baseball and apple pie in America. (And Medicaid would be too if people knew how many seniors are reliant on it.)
Carson actually has remarkably high favorable ratings among voters who know him and are impressed with his stellar life story and pleasingly odd demeanor.
Now is the perfect time to introduce Ben Carson’s fresh radical views on Medicare and re-introduce Paul Ryan’s stale radical views to the millions of seniors who show up to vote in local elections at a rate of 14-to-1 compared to young people.
Doing this would not be inventive. In the run-up to the 1996 election, Democrats began running ads against Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that Republicans would let Medicare “wither on the vine” even though Newt wasn’t a presidential candidate.
What today’s Republicans are proposing is far more destructive.
Remember this: 2016 is the most important election of our lifetime and Republicans have no economic case to make. If Democrats can manage to cut the right’s advantage with seniors to a wash, 2012 will look like a minor landslide.
So let’s start attacking the right’s radical plans to erase Medicare now. Actually, let’s wait till Paul Ryan officially becomes Speaker of the House. We wouldn’t want interrupt our Republicans while they’re making that mistake.
[Photo by the great Anne Savage.]