Democrats are boxing themselves in politically by going after cheap political points on the Medicare issue. As details of a deal to raise the debt ceiling are hammered out behind closed doors, it looks increasingly likely that the Dems are going to regret painting any reform to health care for the elderly as an attempt to kill the program.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, still doesn't get it. On Thursday, she continued the attack, saying, "It's very important for us to keep emphasizing Medicare ... and what the Republicans are doing to end it." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that the GOP would "rather balance the budget on the backs of our seniors, ending the successful programs that have saved seniors from poverty, illness and misfortune."
Most Democrats see Medicare as their silver-bullet issue for 2012. As one House Republican aide explained, "They won the majority in 2006 by bashing Republicans on three issues: Social Security reform, ethics and Iraq. Now they can't run on ethics or Iraq, so all they have left is entitlements."
Two Republicans (Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl) and five Democrats (Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Montana Sen. Max Baucus and Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye) are working on the debt-ceiling deal's details. According to several sources familiar with the progress of the meetings, the group agreed that Medicare reform would be part of the final bill's deficit-reduction package. Mr. Biden has said publicly that the "long-term Medicare costs" are "on the table."
Perhaps one reason for the Democratic leadership's disconnect is that Mr. Reid is in the dark on these talks. The Nevada Democrat explained that Mr. Baucus told him it was "inappropriate for him to discuss with us all the things they were talking about in the meetings." Mr. Reid is fine with that. "If I'm called upon by the vice president or president even to speak ... to weigh in on some of these things, I will do that," he said. "But until then, I think we should leave it to the process that's now in place."
"Mediscare" is a short-sighted campaign ploy of a party that has no alternative plan. In the coming months, Democrats will have to vote to change the Medicare system or watch it bankrupt the entire country. When they vote "aye" on the debt ceiling and Medicare reform package, they'll have to explain how they're not trying to "kill" the program. It would be better if they started telling the truth now.
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