It's a Shame
by Jack Landsman, Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 08:58:33 PM EDT
It would be a damned shame if we finally lost a constituency as prized as seniors because of the current Democratic president. And yet that appear to be exactly what’s happening. In the summer of 2009, there were reports of a Democratic “problem” with seniors. Victoria McGrane and Chris Frates, writing in POLITICO, described how the town hall rage was being fueled by senior citizens. Seniors, angered by proposed cuts to Medicare floating around Congress, controversial talk of “death panels,” and the like, promised to be a concern for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. In 2008 they backed John McCain over Barack Obama by 8 points.
More than a year later, the news hasn’t gotten any better according to The Washington Post. A full 66% of older voters are enthusiastic about voting in November and most of them ready to cashier the Democrats. And they should be. Since they are free of the responsibilities of governing, the vocal conservative opposition has often been right.
In addition to the ones that exist with private insurance, governmental rationing regimes are not beyond the realm of possibility. People often confuse them with the completely innocuous concept of end-of-life counseling, which had been supported by Republicans in years past. The death panels, however, are notions of governmental bureaucrats—full of fulsome praise for the British system of rationing—with the power to deny care for the sake of cost-cutting. Responding to the criticism his work has engendered, bioethicist and administration official Ezekiel Emanuel assured us he was “writing really for political philosophers. [T]he average person, it's not what they're used to reading.”
As far back as 2009, there were new reports contradicting the president’s public statements that there were no cuts to Medicare in any of the proposed legislation. These days you find conservative activists warning us in the pages of The Wall Street Journal that the new reform law will: “Cut $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation; [Cuts] for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years.”
Trouble abounds with the president’s Deficit Commission, or the “Catfood Commission,” as it’s known in good quarters. The uninspired notion of a blue ribbon commission to grab the third rail, among other things, was championed by both Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 primaries. It was weak sauce though forgivable. What is unforgivable is the reported thirst for cuts in Social Security that have animated the Catfood business so far. Despite the hype, even hysterical news reports are forced to admit that Social Security will be solvent until 2037. Praise Jesus, or whoever, for House speaker Nancy Pelosi. For all of her faults, she has stood in the gap on this issue.
Of course there’s always the greater problem of America’s Scylla and Charybdis political system. In opposition to the Obama administration, we have the Republicans. In the closing phase of the 2004 election, John Kerry tried to make an issue of President Bush’s designs for Social Security. Bush’s campaign dismissed the charges as desperate “scare tactics.” Once safely re-elected, the Republican president commenced with an effort to privatize Social Security. America’s largest senior advocacy group, AARP, and the Democratic Party, which was denounced as the “party of no,” were right to stand firmly against Bush’s schemes. Republicans of today aren’t much better.
Amid the mess, there is opportunity. Speaker Pelosi’s intervention in the Catfood Commission, along with other desperate attempts to seek distance from this administration, reveals the Obama way is not the only way. Things have so deteriorated that people are willing to engage in the fantasy that Mrs. Clinton would have been superior to Mr. Obama. We are asked to believe, despite their sameness in terms of policy, what separates them is a sorely-lacking toughness and competence. Color this erstwhile PUMA unconvinced.
The erosion of support for Democrats among older voters is alarming and unremitting. This critical bloc went for McCain in 2008 and favors Republicans this year. By 2012, President Obama will have no other recourse than to implement the strategy used by many Democrats this cycle: “Look over there! They’re extreme!” Whatever proposed cuts exist in Rep. Paul Ryan’s roadmap, President Obama will answer for the ones mandated in his law.