The Washington Times - August 17, 2012, 01:29PM

GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan said Friday that he welcomes the escalating fight over Medicare, arguing that President Obama is bent on siphoning hundreds of billions of dollars from the retiree health program to help cover the cost of his controversial health care law.

At back-to-back campaign stops in Virginia, Mr. Romney’s newly-minted vice presidential pick acknowledged that Mr. Obama inherited a bad situation, but argued the president made the economy worse and knocked Mr. Obama for ditching the optimistic campaign message that helped propel the Democrat into the White House four years ago.


“‘Hope and change’ has now become ‘attack and blame,’ ” the Wisconsin Republican said at a pair of campaign stops in Virginia, alluding to Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan.

Mr. Ryan’s entrance in the race has sparked an intense debate over the controversial spending blueprint that he authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee — in particular, his plan to reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program where elderly recipients receive a fixed subsidy as a way to keep the program solvent.

“We want this debate, we need this debate and we are going to win this debate on Medicare,” Mr. Ryan said at an afternoon campaign stop in Northern Virginia. “I will tell you why. There is only one person to treat Medicare like a piggy bank and that is President Obama.”

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan contend that Mr. Obama wants to take $716 billion out of the retiree health program to cover the cost of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” “That affects current seniors, and his campaign calls this an achievement,” Mr. Ryan said. “You think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare is an achievement. Why don’t we just get rid of Obamacare altogether?”

Independent fact checkers have challenged the GOP ticket’s claim. Politifact said it was “mostly false.”

Mr. Obama and Democrats say that the president’s health care overhaul reduces projected spending on Medicare by more than $700 billion over the next ten years and the reduction does not affect Medicare recipients. The savings, they say, come from smaller payments to providers and insurance companies, as well as reduced payments to Medicare Advantage — a category of Medicare plans run by private insurers.

President Obama also argues that the “Romney-Ryan” plan on Medicare would shift more of the costs onto the backs of seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes.

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said during the daily briefing that a recent AARP analysis of the competing Medicare plans found that the approach that been implemented by Mr. Obama has “strengthened” the benefits that millions of seniors rely on.

“And they did an analysis of the Ryan budget and noted that it would actually undermine the fundamental premise of Medicare,” he said.

For the first time as Mr. Romney’s vice presidential pick, Mr. Ryan is scheduled to campaign Saturday in Florida, where voters 65 and over constitute more than a quarter of the state’s registered voters — making Medicare a potential make-or-break issue.

At his first stop in Virginia on Friday, Mr. Ryan accused Mr. Obama of pushing federal stimulus money to his political cronies, and warned the audience that Mr. Obama wants to raise taxes on small business — a move that he said would stifle job creation.

“We are going to reject ‘Obamanomics,’ ” Mr. Ryan said, adding that it is based on the “economic doctrine of corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.”

“It is the people who are politically connected, it is the people who have access to Washington, that get breaks,” he said. “Well, no more. We don’t want to pick winners and losers in Washington. We want you to keep more of your hard-earned dollars. Hardworking taxpayers should be treated fairly, and it should be based on whether they are good, whether they work hard, and not who they know in Washington.”

He also waded into foreign policy during his second stop, responding to the news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an anti-Israel protest that the Jewish state was a “cancerous tumor” that will be soon finished off by the nations of the region.

“Let me be really clear. Under President Romney, our adversaries will think twice about challenging America and our allies because we believe in peace through strength. There will be no daylight between America and our friends around the world,” Mr. Ryan said.