What’s Democratic House Minority Nancy Pelosi doing talking to seniors in Florida? I’ll give you one guess.
At a speech in Orlando yesterday, Pelosi warned a group of 60 seniors that Medicare was under attack by Republicans. “When Medicare was passed it was a pillar of stability for our seniors. Now, she says, it’s being “undermined by Republicans” who want to “save money on the backs of seniors.”
During the ObamaCare debates and the 2010 election, Republicans recently discovered that running against Medicare cuts was highly effective (at least in the short term). But that strategy was wrong on the merits and almost certainly bound to backfire, in part because Democrats were sure to use it against them. Lo and behold, Democrats are now running hard against a high-profile Republican proposal to overhaul Medicare.
Of course, the problem for Democrats is that they will have to have to hope seniors don't notice one minor, inconvenient fact: The Ryan plan doesn’t overhaul Medicare for current beneficiaries. Nor does it alter Medicare for anyone who is within a decade of entering the program at the time of passage. Indeed, the only cuts to Medicare included in the Ryan plan that might affect current seniors are the same cuts already passed by Democrats in last year’s health care overhaul. There’s a good chance that those cuts won’t even pay off. Regardless, you have to wonder: Is Pelosi now against those cuts too?
Perhaps you think that Ryan’s plan is politically cynical, or that, because it exempts current beneficiaries, it doesn’t go far enough to curb entitlement spending. But postponing changes in the program was built to do two things: First, it doesn’t force changes on anyone at the last minute; future beneficiaries get time to plan and prepare. Second, it’s designed to fend off exactly the charges that Pelosi and her fellow Democrats are now lobbing at the proposal. The inevitability of these charges, and the fact that they're still being made despite the fact that Ryan specifically exempted seniors, is part of why leaving current beneficiaries alone was politically necessary in order to give a voucher-style plan even the smallest chance of success.