Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Politics and Paul Ryan's Mom

Long ago, after a particularly nasty legislative maneuver, I asked a political boss, “Does your mother know what you do for a living?” He tapped my elbow and smiled. “Politics, kid,” he explained.

Paul Ryan’s mother not only knows but helps him do it. At her Florida retirement village, she is his prop as the VP wannabe who wants to gut the program tells an ogling crowd,  “Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma, when we needed it then, and Medicare is there for my mom while she needs that now, and we need to keep that guaranteed.”

His whopper comes in the face of a New York Times editorial charging that Romney and Ryan have “twisted themselves into knots to distance themselves from previous positions, so that voters can no longer believe anything they say. Last week, both insisted that they would save Medicare by pumping a huge amount of money into the program, a bizarre turnaround for supposed fiscal conservatives out to rein in federal spending.

“The likelihood that they would stand by that irresponsible pledge after the election is close to zero.”

Romney and Ryan would give retirees vouchers to buy a private plan or current Medicare. Sounds good, but then Medicare would be left with the sickest patients, driving up premiums and making it unaffordable—-a version of the old saw about freedom of housing, that the poor have the same options as the rich, hotel rooms or sleeping under bridges.

The Times editorial generously concludes that “the choice is between a Democratic approach that wants to retain Medicare as a guaranteed set of benefits with the government paying its share of the costs even if costs rise, and a Republican approach that wants to limit the government’s spending to a defined level, relying on untested market forces to drive down insurance costs.”

Perhaps, but old people would be well-advised to get out blankets and prepare for slumber under bridges.  Needless to say, Paul Ryan’s mother won’t be one of them.

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