First, the facts. Paul Ryan is going to release a plan that would move those currently under 55 into a "premium support" system rather than to Medicare as it is currently structured. This will shield the federal government from the skyrocketing costs of the program, but will end Medicare as we know it. Cue the howls, the Republicans are ending Medicare. True enough, but if a better and more affordable way to insure seniors can be found, what difference does it make. Frankly we can not afford the current system, given the trends.
Will seniors have to do a better job saving for and managing their own health care? Yes. Why is that a bad thing? Market competition, while not a panacea is certainly preferable to the current system that is rife with fraud and is slowing falling apart as doctors opt out and the queue gets longer for the ones that remain.
Over at DailyKos, the focus is on the fact that this ends Medicare, as if calling it a sacred cow will save it from the inexorable economics that are already killing it. Josh Marshall of TPM is quoted:
The Ryan plan is to get rid of Medicare and in place of it give seniors a voucher to buy health care insurance from private insurers. Now, what if you can't buy as much as insurance or as much care as you need? Well, start saving now or just too bad.The Republican rebuttal to this tripe is that if the current system isn't dramatically changed, then seniors will have zero health care help from the government. It is a strong man argument, comparing a still functioning system of today against Ryan's proposal, when the actual comparison is against a bankrupt system that helps no one once it goes bust in the future.
E.J. Dionne, another reliably lefty writer, is also quoted in Kos from his WaPo article.
Will President Obama welcome the responsibility of engaging the country in this big argument, or will he shrink from it? Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obama’s historic obligation — and opportunity — to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal?He is asking the President to act irresponsibly, as if the party will never end, and risk his re-election on the hope that the public will buy into the shrill messaging of years past. But I think we are beyond that. The Tea Party has educated the public, they are ready to deal with this.
Exit questions. Is this a political winner for Republicans? Will Obama lead a spirited counter-offensive in defense of all things governmental?