By Lynn Paris
Just when I thought I wouldn’t have to write about health care issues again, it seems that health care is back in the headlines. And isn’t it incredibly ironic that the very same people – tea-partiers and other conservative republicans – who scared everyone’s grandparents with phrases like “death panels” and “Don’t touch my Medicare” when Obama and the democrats were fighting for the Affordable Health Care Act – are now complaining bitterly about so-called demagogues calling Paul Ryan’s voucher plan a, well, a voucher plan?
Astoundingly, Ryan was quoted as blaming the democrats -- in the wake of the special election in New York’s highly conservative 26th Congressional District where Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, won by focusing on Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare -- for their willingness to “shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue, trying to scare seniors to win an election.” Imagine the nerve . . . trying to scare seniors! And to win an election?? Of all the shameless acts, this must be the worst.
Except, it isn’t. Because it’s Ryan’s plan itself and the republican’s desire to destroy Medicare once and for all (they’ve been trying for more than 50 years, ever since Harry S. Truman received the first Medicare card from President Lyndon B. Johnson) that is shameless. It’s the republicans’ lies about this plan and their attempts to pass it off as a form of Medicare when it is, in fact, the end of Medicare that is shameless.
I have nothing against Paul Ryan. He seems like a very personable and highly intelligent guy. And I give him props for having the guts to be the first one out on that “we have to put entitlements on the table” limb. He’s right about that, and anyone who disagrees at this point is a fool. Entitlements HAVE to be on the table because they are the meat and potatoes of the debt, as Bill Maher likes to point out, while all we’ve been talking about for months is cutting up the tiny sprig of parsley on the side.
But then they have to be straight with the American people. The republicans have to stop lying about their vouchers not being vouchers that will only cover roughly one-third of what a senior would have to pay for health insurance, assuming for a moment that anyone over 65 could actually GET health insurance. That is what the Ryan plan is, and no one is lying about that, not even democrats. They’re just reading his plan. Unlike what republicans did during the long and bitter fight over health care.
The scariest thing to me is how much power the extreme right has over the usually-considered-conservative-enough republican candidates, like Newt Gingrich, for example. To his credit, he actually spoke the truth when he called the republican plan too radical a couple of weeks ago on “Meet The Press.” Too bad he hadn’t read the new rulebook yet. Clearly, no one in the republican party is allowed to differ with the extremist views of the tea party if they want to remain in the club, much less a candidate for president.
The other aspiring candidates are falling in line, too. The craziest one, of course, is Mitt Romney. Here’s a guy who got it right in the highly educated state of Massachusetts when he instituted an extremely successful, dare I even write it, universal health plan. In saner times, that’s something he could be proud of. Heck, he could even use it against the more timid democrats. In crazy times like these, however, Romney has had to disavow the health care plan he once supported by saying it was right for Massachusetts, but wouldn’t work for the rest of the country. I guess he’s right, at least for the part of the country I live in. Those of us in the less educated states like Texas (soon to be even less-educated if the governor and his pals have their way) aren’t smart enough to want things like universal health care. People could get shot, and have certainly gotten fired for wanting things a lot less threatening to the good ole boy way of life than that.
The democrats are enjoying this now, knowing that while all this extremism might play well for the primary crowds, it will hardly work with all those independent voters out there when it’s time for the general election. Polls show that a large majority of Americans say that Medicare is extremely important to them. Polls also show that a large majority favor eliminating subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies and increasing the tax rate for the wealthiest one percent. Not exactly high priority items for the grass roots, reflecting-the-will-of-the-people tea partiers and their republican flock.
The democrats shouldn’t start celebrating, though. Republicans have two things going for them. They can blame the lousy unemployment numbers on Obama now (because it’s no longer considered fair to point out the mess he inherited from Bush) and they have this uncanny but brilliant way of walking in lock-step with each other; they will say or do anything to get elected. Democrats are not like that. They don’t share one mind; they bicker among themselves and they have an amazingly difficult time articulating their views.
The democrats need to hire someone (preferably a former republican operative) to come in and show them how to stay on five simple talking points, ignore their inconsistencies and brag about their accomplishments. And they better do it fast.