Paul Ryan offers up bad Medicare proposals

March 14, 2013 

What is it about mathematics that Republicans in the U.S. House do not understand? Back in November, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, took a drubbing from President Obama and Vice President Biden in the presidential election. And yet Ryan, no fan of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, though not a sworn enemy when he’s seeking office, is now presenting a budget plan that is riding on Romney-Ryan ’12 retreads.

Ryan, House Budget Committee chairman, wants to repeal spending on health care reform, even though the public affirmed its support for reform in voting Obama a second term. And, Ryan pushes ahead with changes in Medicare that include the creation of a voucher that people could use to buy private insurance instead of going under Medicare.

Already rejected

These ideas were rejected in November, and for good reason. They are not good ideas and reflect the same blind partisanship that cost Republicans the election. The people have spoken. Perhaps the congressman has had his earmuffs on too tightly in the cold Wisconsin winter.

The voucher proposal, for example, might be called a “choice” by its advocates, who don’t want to frighten people into thinking they want to privatize a government program that has served, and saved, millions of seniors. But in reality, it’s a step toward privatization, in the name of balancing the budget and stemming the growth of Medicare.

Tea party Republicans, of course, are strong believers in cutting government to the bone and even eliminating entitlement programs. But more practical GOP lawmakers, though they may be secretly lukewarm regarding entitlements, know that cutting back Medicare or appearing to question its existence, translates into a one-way ticket home in the next election.

Even Ryan and Romney knew that in 2012, when they vowed that they fully supported Medicare. But Ryan is an aggressive young lawmaker with a strong certitude when it comes to budget matters.

Unwanted struggle

More experienced members of his party know, however, that they do not want to get in a debate with President Obama where he is an advocate for a traditional Medicare program beloved and relied upon by several generations of Americans and they are its enemies. Indeed, while it’s true that the government may have to do some restructuring of entitlements, the public will not tolerate any change that will mean seniors will be asked to sacrifice more for their health care.

And a fundamental problem with all the talk of reforming entitlements in the name of budget-balancing, of course, is that it’s clear Republicans want to hit the middle class with increased expenses while not looking for additional revenues from loophole-closing and tax increases on the wealthy, apparently the only constituency to which they pay attention.

But Medicare is too popular, and too successful. If Mr. Ryan really does intend to push change that will change the face and the benefits of it, one can almost hear the president whispering, “Go ahead. Make my day.”

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