Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, launched a weekend campaign swing through key battleground state, Florida. Addressing a crowd of senior citizens at what is said to be the largest retirement community in the world, The Villages in north-central Florida near Ocala a planned community which is home to over 50,000 seniors. Scheduled to appear with Romney at other stops soon, Ryan was on his own Saturday morning…except of course for his 78-year-old mother, Betty Douglas Ryan, who was undoubtedly brought along in an attempt to diffuse criticism of Ryan’s plan.
The Republican Party has long opposed nearly all government run or guaranteed benefit programs; Medicare, Medicaid and – indeed – even Social Security, as most recently seen when George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security with a risky Stock Market-based savings option, an idea he was forced to abandon amid nationwide public criticism. It is reported that 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, would have attempted a similar plan. We have seen the “wisdom” of such a plan with the 2008 Stock Market Crash, which would have devastated Social Security benefits and threatened the solvency of the now nearly 80-year old retirement safety net, the most successful government benefit progam in history.
Now the Republicans, under the guise of the Ryan Budget are trying to remake Medicare into a voucher program, effectivley ending Medicare as we now know it, costing seniors an estimated $6,400 more per year to cover increased private insurance premiums. Medicare has been the most popular and effective senior and disabled health care program in history, guaranteeing America’s elderly and disabled affordable access to nationwide to health care, while keeping them out of poverty due to greater health needs as we age or become disabled.
Since Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as, “the next President of the United States” (oops, a slip…?) last Saturday in Virginia, the rollout has been anything but smooth. Romney, Ryan and various surrogates (like former N.H. Republican Governor and all-around blow-hard, John Sununu) have been all over the map as to whether Romney and Ryan were, indeed, even on the same page over Medicare. Romney, who endorsed the Ryan Budget and the reforms it contained months ago, when it was being debated in Congress, called it “marvelous.”
Since the rollout this past week,however, Romney appeared to distance himself from the key elements of the Ryan plan amid increasing public scrutiny and criticism. Now it seems the Romney/Ryan “team” has arrived at a “unified” attack stategy they plan to employ in an effort to merely misrepresent what Obama has done, while hoping the public will simply forget the fact that the Republican Party has hated Medicare since its inception under President Lyndon Johnson, who was able to enact it, only thanks to a huge Democratic majority in Congress.
To further this attack, Ryan has had to knuckle-under to the shift in strategy by reversing himself on what he supposedly wanted to do with the $716 billion in savings that would accrue through the repeal of Obamacare (the real, immediate Republican target in all of this). Ryan originally sought to apply the savings to reduce the deficit at a time when other parts of his budget would have granted huge tax increases to millionaire and billionaires. Somehow, little noticed, the Los Angeles Times reported this shift, which would entail restoring the $716 billion in savings back to the health care provider insurance industry and, rather than shrinking the National Debt, it would add to it!
So now Ryan and Romney are stumping the country (pun intended), in an attempt to misrepresent the very nature and history of Medicare, characterizing Medicare in terms to make people believe that Medicare is a gift, something given out freely by the government (“more free suff”), rather that an earned government-guaranteed insurance benefit paid for by all working Americans through Medicare Taxes and then funded individually through Medicare Premiums.
Meanwhile, President Obama, speaking at an enthusiastic rally in New Hampshire, effectively fended off scurrilous Republican attacks that he has in fact ‘stolen’ $716 billion from Medicare in order to fund “another” entitlement program (as Ryan put it in Florida)…Obamacare. The Democrats have seized on the confusing, mixed messages expressed thus far by the Republicans and – now that the Republican attack has become more focused – Obama and others have forcefully and effectively called out the Republican plan for what it is…a fraud.
Today Obama hammered home the Republican plan to “voucherize” Medicare pointing out how provisions of the Affordable Care Act now close the prescription “donut hole” and provides free wellness care for seniors, features that would simply disappear under the Romney/Ryan Plan. The President’s plan realizes savings by eliminating $716 billion on the provider side not on the beneficiary side, lowering excessive payments to the insurance companies, reducing fraud and limiting exorbitant executive pay and bonuses, for which many seniors are now due to receive rebate checks.
Under the Romney/Ryan plan many analysts predict that the Medicare Trust Fund will dry up in four years, while the Obama Plan would add eight (8) years to the fund’s solvency and allow for further changes to guarantee its solvency long-term. In a Washington Post interview, Saturday morning with Ezra Klein, Maryland Representative, Chris Van Hollen, Ryan’s Democratic counterpart on the House Budget Committee, charged that seniors would see immediate cost increases to Medicare were the Romney/Ryan plan to become law.