Policy

Will Romney-Ryan "Preserve" and "Strengthen" Medicare? And if They Do, Will They Cut Any Spending Ever?

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Here's Paul Ryan talking at the Republican National Convention:

Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom's generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.

Over at National Review's The Corner, Mercatus Center economist and Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy writes

My fear is that by making the $700 billion "cuts" from Medicare the centerpiece of their attack on Obama's health-care law, Republicans are implicitly putting Medicare out of the reach of reformers after the elections. In fact, it is hard to reconcile the words Ryan used during his speech with the Medicare-reform plans he has pushed for in the last three years….

"Protect" and "strengthen" Medicare could easily be interpreted as meaning that Republicans aren't running on the Ryan plan to reform the program and instead have promised to preserve the program in its current form and even beef it up for all seniors,today and tomorrow. This is reinforced by the fact that the speech made no mention of how Ryan would like to reform the program through premium support.

We know that the GOP will not dismantle Medicare, don't we? For starters, it's far from clear that Ryan's voucher plan would ultimately make Medicare fiscally solvent - and that's leaving aside the fact that if it goes according to his schedule, the vouchers won't kick in for another decade, during which the program will swell with the ranks of baby boomers.

Arguably more important, the Republicans are pushing to be seen as "the party of Medicare," a mantle they laid claim to with the indefensible passage of Medicare Part D, which gave reduced-price prescription drugs to seniors regardless of need (when it passed, seniors paid a whopping 3.2 percent of their annual income on prescription drugs). The days when characters such as Ronald Reagan railed against Medicare as "socialized medicine" (as he did in the early '60s) are long gone.

In his acceptance speech at last night's Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney made it clear that he wanted to increase defense spending, and that he would create a world "where no senior fears for the security of their retirement." Assuming that covers Medicare and Social Security, that's pretty much it when it comes to cutting the budget. Game, set, match. Pre-order Rosetta Stone's Greek program.

The seniors who benefit from Medicare love the program. Why shouldn't they, since they pay for only a portion of essentially unlimited coverage? But the program is a mess - all beneficiaries get far more out of it than they put in. As the single-largest factor in the future bankrupting of the government, Medicare doesn't need to preserved or protected, it needs to be scrapped and replaced with a much-smaller and targeted plan that helps only those who cannot pay for their own health care.