Lois Frankel, a Democratic candidate in U.S. House District 22, has made clear how she plans to win election to Congress: scare senior citizens about Medicare, even lying to them in order to capture their votes. It’s an effective tactic Democratic politicians have employed for decades, so why mess with success?
This time around, however, the former West Palm Beach mayor and other slash-and-burn Democrats may discover seniors no longer are as pliable as they have been in the past. While seniors have their own interests in mind, they’re also concerned about their children and grandchildren, who would be crushed financially by the current entitlement system.
Frankel jumped all over Republican District 22 candidate Adam Hasner when he endorsed a Medicare reform put forth by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan that recently was incorporated into a budget passed by the House of Representatives. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, seeks to control Medicare expenses by turning the program into a voucher system that would hold down the growth in costs.
In an email targeting seniors, Frankel urged them to sign an open letter opposing the Ryan Medicare changes. She declared: “Growing up, my parents always said that if you make a promise, you better keep it. Well, right now the Republicans are getting ready to try to break a promise that America has made to thousands of seniors who are getting ready to retire.”
No, they aren’t. The Ryan budget doesn’t touch Medicare for anyone 55 or older, so to say that Republicans are trying to break a promise to those ready to retire just isn’t true. Why do politicians think they can get away with such blatant dishonesty?
Ryan also joined Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, in changing the original plan so that it would maintain the public Medicare option. The bipartisan approach would enable seniors to choose between traditional Medicare and private insurance, much as they can today with Medicare Advantage plans. Ryan and Wyden currently disagree by a half of a percentage point on the annual inflation-adjusted growth in the value of the vouchers, but the plan still offers the foundation for a workable compromise.
For his efforts, Wyden has been branded as a heretic by many fellow Democrats. Like Frankel, they prefer to portray Republicans as throwing Grandma off a cliff, and Wyden’s courageous effort to reach a bipartisan consensus detracts from the imagery.
As for Frankel’s concern about breaking promises, the fundamentals of the current Medicare system were put in place nearly a half century ago. Back then, the huge and then-healthy baby boom generation was just entering the workforce. Medical treatment cost much less compared to today, and the United States didn’t have a national debt of more than $15 trillion.
Social Security dates back another 30 years, to the Great Depression. The politicians of that era pegged the retirement age at 65 because that’s as long as people were expected to live. Today, the retirement age is creeping up to 67, but average life expectancy has jumped to 78. The growth in longevity coupled with declining birth rates has turned Social Security into an actuarial nightmare.
It’s one thing for a person to keep a promise made to another. But it’s a morally bankrupt proposition to insist today’s younger generations pay for the promises made by politicians who died decades ago, and who were working with a different set of fiscal realities. Thomas Jefferson referred to such thinking as “generational tyranny,” and urged every generation to conduct a revolution of its own to clear away the sclerotic ideas and methods of the past.
Allow me, a senior citizen, to offer some advice to America’s young people: Politicians intent on preserving the untenable status quo don’t care about you. They’re concerned with maintaining and enhancing their own power. It’s time for you to rise up from your video games and declare you’re sick and tired or their lies and obfuscations, and that you’re not going to take it anymore.
Youth of America, unite! You have nothing to lose but the chains of the Medicare and Social Security systems that, in their current forms, will drive you, not Grandma, off the financial cliff.