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MediScare: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Campaign Theme

June 01, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

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I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at Congressional Democrats’ withering scorn for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, a plan to which their party has yet to offer an alternative.

This is the party that vituperatively opposed all GOP spending cuts for the past two years, yet unlawfully failed to pass a budget during that period.

The party that insists on calling Republicans the Party of No should be labeled the Party of No Ideas of Their Own.

Charles Blow, for example, filled a recent column with purple prose elucidating why voters find Ryan’s plan repugnant: “[T]he electorate is hurting—a pulsing mass of tender nerves, hypersensitive to things that portend pain, reflexively reacting to the thump of even the softest mallet.”  (And most of them don’t even read the New York Times!)  He continued: “This is not to say that Medicare isn’t in crisis.  It is.  But, we don’t have to gut it to save it.”  He then spent precisely zero space suggesting any alternative solutions.

Blow and other liberals have been crowing about the obscure special election Democrat Kathy Hochul won in NY-26 last week.  They claim that Republican Jane Corwin lost because of Ryan’s recently proposed Medicare plan, since seniors in the district were terrified that electing her would increase the chances of their Medicare payments being cut.

Never mind that Democrats inserted into the race a fake Tea Party candidate who siphoned off up to 9% of the Corwin vote; that the previous officeholder was a Republican embroiled in a sex scandal; or that Corwin was a lousy candidate who failed to utter a word in defense of Ryan’s proposal until days before the election.

(Hey, how is it that thundering losses in the 2010 midterm elections weren’t a referendum on ObamaCare, but loss of one seat in a murky district in upstate New York constitutes a wholehearted rejection of conservatism?)

The irony of Democrats’ MediScare campaign is that Ryan’s relatively mild-mannered proposal is the only plan that would save Medicare.  Continuing to fund Medicare at current levels, the Democrats’ strategy, will bankrupt it.

For those who love Medicare and want to see it continue (which I don’t—but hey, to each his own), the scariest choice is doing nothing to reform it.  In contrast, the most reassuring strategy would be a course of action similar to Ryan’s.

I suspect that if pollsters asking voters whether they want Medicare cut presented the real alternative to that possibility—namely, the fund going bankrupt and an unelected board of bureaucrats rationing care for everyone—the public would be a little more receptive to Ryan’s plan.

Democratic naysayers are rife with general notions of how to deal with entitlement reform, but all of these consist of reflexive opposition to any steps Republicans want to take.

For example, Ryan has quite reasonably proposed reducing Medicare benefits for wealthy retirees—who need them less, if at all—to save money.

But leftists like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders oppose even cutting benefits for the wealthy: “The strength of Social Security and Medicare is that everybody is in.  Once you start breaking that universality and you say that if you’re above a certain income [you’re out], two years later that income goes down and 10 years later it becomes a welfare program.”

Would that Social Security and Medicare were only welfare programs!  They’d sure cost a lot less.  They’d also restore a lot more freedom to the middle class in deciding how to invest their money and plan for retirement.

But for liberals, it’s all about control.  Their message to the wealthy is: We’ll tax the bejesus out of you, but then we’ll deign to give you benefits you don’t need, and then exercise complete control over when and how you receive them.  Aren’t you grateful?

For conservatives, it’s all about liberty.  Their message to the wealthy is: We won’t bother you with government-run insurance you don’t need, and we also won’t harass you with exorbitant taxes for the sin of being productive.  Go do your thing!

Sanders, an avowed socialist whose views are nonetheless inches away from the Democratic mainstream, proves once again that liberals are instinctively upside-down on every public policy issue of importance.  Even when it makes sound fiscal sense to steer benefits toward the poor and take them away from the rich, liberals somehow find a way to oppose that progressive notion.

Democrats claim that 20 years from now, seniors will be getting less from the government to cover their health care costs.  Yes, and if Democrats get their way, not only will seniors will be getting less, the government will be deciding how they spend it, via an unelected Medicare rationing board, rather than letting them shop the market for the care they like best.  Now which party’s plan does the public prefer?

Another political axiom the MediScare campaign proves is that liberals will always take the route that proves most politically feasible, regardless of whether it fails to address the public policy conundrum under consideration, unfairly smears their opponents, or makes no logical sense.

Thus, even the Times’ Gail Collins had to admit, “There is no escaping our fate. We are going to spend the next 17 months hearing about how the Republicans want to kill off Medicare…  By the fall, there will be ads showing the Republicans hacking their way through rows of bedridden seniors with scimitars.”

What’s most frightening: Democrats’ brazenness in hiding behind MediScare so as not to have to address the Medicare crisis, the public’s likelihood of falling for MediScare, or Republicans’ failure to explain MediScare’s utter absurdity?

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