Cutting Waste and Fraud Is Not a Medicare Reform Proposal
A candidate who promises to preserve, protect, and defend Medicare, save it from going bankrupt, implement his plan for only those under 55, and let you keep your benefits exactly as they are now if you don’t like his changes: this is the candidate Democrats are portraying as a faceless monster diabolically wheeling Grandma off a cliff.
We’ve reached the apotheosis of the Democratic Party’s political strategy: take the Republican who’s most likely to do it the favor of justifying, rescuing, and strengthening its bloated, big-government welfare programs, and then smear him as their callous, murderous destroyer.
Ten days after Mitt Romney’s Vice-Presidential nomination announcement, liberals are still spreading the meme that Paul Ryan was a suicidal choice, because he dared come up with a serious Medicare reform proposal—gradually turn the program into a voucher-supported private system—and include it in two House-passed federal budgets. The left waited about five minutes after the VP pick, then cried, “See—Romney didn’t get a Ryan bounce. He screwed up!”
Wait till Americans hear Paul Ryan debate Joe Biden and field questions from a smarmy, economically illiterate press. Then they won’t be crowing that Romney committed political hari-kari.
Back in 2010, the left claimed that Tea Party candidates would hurt the GOP in the midterm elections, because Americans wouldn’t tolerate their extremist, far-right views. Then Republicans won a historic landslide, picking up 63 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, 6 governorships, and 680 state legislature seats.
The left claimed that Marco Rubio would terrify seniors in Florida with his support for privatizing Social Security and his signing a pledge that labeled the program “generational theft.” Then Rubio returned from 20 points behind to crush his opponents in a three-way senatorial election.
The left claimed that wishy-washy compromiser John McCain was the contender most likely to deliver a knockout blow to Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Then McCain embarrassed Republicans by offering a tepid, watered-down alternative to Obama’s platform and lost the election.
Pundits imply that Romney should have picked a VP candidate with no strong positions on Medicare—or any other issue of substance—lest he alienate independents. In fact, if any voters truly are undecided, they’re going to be blown away by what Ryan has to say on Medicare and every other budgetary topic he addresses in his upcoming campaign appearances, because it’s so much bolder and more honest than what almost any other politician has said to date.
Ryan is one of the rare political candidates who’s even more impressive in enemy territory than he is on friendly turf.
Since they don’t like the Big Bad Wolf’s proposal, what are Democrats’ plans for shoring up Medicare?
They have none. They don’t even think there is a problem.
The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, for example, argues that Medicare is doing just fine, that the only reason costs are out of control is the large number of retiring Baby Boomers.
It doesn’t matter what the cause of Medicare’s looming insolvency is. The increase in retirees just lays bare the Ponzi-scheme structure of Medicare and other federal unfunded liabilities.
Contrary to some Democrats’ claims, the Medicare problem is not going to solve itself. Medicare is not, as they argue, more cost-effective than private health insurance. The federal government prohibits the sale of private health insurance across state lines, which cripples the private insurance industry’s ability to compete and innovate. No such hindrance exists for Medicare.
Medicare is not more cost-effective than health maintenance organizations. The IRS hamstrings HMOs by virtually forcing private health insurance plans to be tied to employers rather than employees, which reduces flexibility and competitiveness. No such obstacle exists for Medicare.
Medicare could never survive on its own, not without sponging off of the much larger private insurance industry. If Medicare has such a bright future, more doctors wouldn’t be refusing to accept Medicare patients with each passing year.
The irony is that Democrats warn Republicans that Ryan’s nomination will make the Medicare issue unavoidable for them. In fact, it’s taken Ryan’s nomination to force Democrats to finally stop avoiding the Medicare issue.
What is Obama’s proposal to address Medicare’s imminent bankruptcy? He reassures us that we don’t need to cut benefits, that we can keep the program solvent simply by reducing fraud and waste. In his words, “My plan saves money in Medicare by cracking down on fraud, and waste and insurance company subsidies… My plan’s already extended the life of Medicare by nearly a decade.”
Please. Every politician who wants to preserve the status quo claims that gobs of money can be saved from a federal program just by reducing fraud and waste. Everyone wants to reduce fraud and waste. John Gambino wants to reduce fraud and waste.
Obama also claims he can save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing subsidies to insurance companies and hospitals—as if they’re going to just altruistically pony up the difference, rather than cutting services or finding some other way to pass the cost on to customers.
Democrats show no interest in acknowledging the fact that Medicare is going broke, that benefits are going to have to be cut—and soon. They live in a fantasy land where—at best—they pretend they can save hundreds of billions of dollars via rosy projections of improved Medicare cost-efficiency that will take place just a few years down the road, after the next couple of election cycles, by which time voters will have forgotten about their unfulfillable promises.
At worst, they ignore the problem and demonize Republicans for proposing actual solutions.
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics