For decades, the Republican party has been the scourge of Medicare, hostile to it as a wasteful government program, and happy to see it, in the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “wither and die on the vine.” Over the past several months, as Democrats propose paying for health care reform with savings wrung from waste in Medicare, Republicans have tried to position themselves as Medicare saviors. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took to the Senate floor recently to warn that health care reform will make seniors “die sooner.”
Now, though, Democrats are pondering a Medicare expansion of sorts. They want to let people between the ages of 55 and 64 buy insurance through Medicare. And suddenly, Republicans are stuck in a booby-trapped rhetorical space, defending Medicare from all attackers–real and perceived–and also lashing out at the idea of letting more people benefit from it.Today, Democrats will unveil the above poster board–taken from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comm shop–on the Senate floor. That the two press releases were issued on consecutive days seems to heighten the contradiction.
To be fair, the full Republican argument isn’t so transparently contradictory. How can you expand Medicare to millions more people, they ask, while pulling billions of dollars out of the system at the same time. (The answer is, if those billions are being wasted, and the new beneficiaries are paying into the system, there’s no problem doing both).
But such are the perils of feigning support for a popular program, after railing against it for a generation.