Vail Daily letter: Hard lesson for GOP
June 23, 2011
It has been about six months since the GOP won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, made a major gain in the Senate, and won a wide majority of state governorships up for re-election as well as state legislatures. In this short amount of time, the current version of the GOP is relearning a hard reality – it is much easier to pick apart and criticize someone else’s solution to a problem than to develop your own.
No one has learned this lesson harder and faster than GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” treatise quickly discovered that the third rail of politics (entitlement programs) is indeed electrified and hot. The shout outs at Ryan’s town hall meetings changed tone, from applause to boos.
Ryan’s plan to terminate Medicare as we know it, and substitute a voucher system that would apply for those currently under 55 years of age, has turned out to be about as popular as a skunk at a square dance. The attendees are holding their noses and running for the exits. The band (read the GOP) seems oblivious to the exodus and continues to play on.
A substantial majority of the population is not thrilled with the prospect of their health care in old age being determined by the for-profit, private health care insurance industry we have all come to know and love so well.
On a per capita basis, the cost drivers facing Medicare are no different than those driving the cost of health care for our entire system. Fix the system and we fix a good piece of what ails Medicare. The unique problem of Medicare is demographic. From this point forward for the next 20 years, the 65 and over population will increase annually as a percentage of the total population. Fewer younger workers supporting larger numbers of seniors.
The GOP’s solution to fixing our health care system is to repeal “Obamacare” and cost-shift the Medicare problem on to the backs of future Medicare recipients. Fixing a fiscal problem should not rely on simply cost-shifting the problem to a subset of the population (e.g. Medicare recipients) or the entire population. Solving that problem should involve removing the underlying causes so that the problem doesn’t become some endemic part of our culture.