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Is Medicare the elephant in the middle of the room?

Is Medicare the elephant in the middle of the room?

There’s a word that has become the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room for Democrats.  Medicare.  The only time it is mentioned is when President Obama uses it to scare the elderly into thinking the Republicans are going to leave them high and dry by eliminating benefits without a safety net.  With reports that the current Medicare fund will only last another 13 years, the current Medicare system needs to be reformed.  The question is not “if” but “how” and “when.”   It will be interesting to see how big a role Medicare plays in tonight’s Republican Presidential debates.  I like this article from the Washington Times for a preview of how the candidates may respond when asked about Medicare reform.  

Despite a national debt just shy of $15 trillion, President Obama refuses to put forth a substantive proposal tackling the single largest source of red ink: Medicare. Democrats prefer to use this program as a political club to scare the elderly and keep hold on power. Luckily, the potential future occupants of the White House in the GOP have shown political courage. They’ve rallied behind a common set of principles that would shore up the health care program for seniors.

Most Americans understand the problem. According to a Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday, only 33 percent are confident that they will ever see the benefits they’ve been promised. The worry is well founded, as the program’s own trustees have said that it will be totally bankrupt in 13 years. To address the imminent crisis, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced Friday that he would introduce private-sector competition. His idea is similar to, but less audacious than, the House Republican plan drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

Mr. Ryan would slowly move those under 55 years old into a premium-support system so that they could pick their own insurance plans. Mr. Romney would offer the same choices to future seniors, but he would also add an option of buying into the existing, government-run system. Seniors would receive a set amount (determined by means) to spend on health insurance premiums. Mr. Romney is looking to blunt the predictable Democratic Mediscare attack. He realizes that market forces would likely make the bureaucratic government option more costly, driving most to private plans to save money. Mr. Romney would also gradually raise the eligibility age to shore up the program.

Newt Gingrich had already put forth virtually the same plan of optional premium support. The former House speaker is so confident that Americans would opt for Ryan plan that he said in a debate on Saturday with Herman Cain he would be “happy to try it out next year.” The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO added that Mr. Ryan’s plan mirrors the private-sector transition from defined benefit to defined contribution plans and that “ownership of those dollars will cause people to spend it more responsibly.”

Rick Perry is less specific, offering support for some type of private option though premium-support payments or a credit. The Texas governor also backs increasing the eligibility age and means testing. The moderate in the field, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, endorsed the Ryan plan in the spring. While Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann voted for the House budget, she seemed to back off support of the Medicare reform proposals in later statements. Texas Rep. Ron Paul voted against the Ryan budget, saying it did not go far enough.

House Republicans laid the foundation by boldly proclaiming the need to fix Medicare. This paved the way for the Republican presidential candidates to publicly support the concept. This is a remarkable achievement. The winner of the November 2012 election needs to be the leader who understands this crisis must be addressed now.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The New York Times asks,

The New York Times asks, “Should schools help “catch” illegal immigrants?”

Photo courtesy: valdez.wikispaces.dpsk12.org

One of the key promises then candidate Barack Obama made in 2008 was to open up pathways for illegal immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship.  There is no doubt that the Hispanic voting bloc in this country is gaining in size and power.  And that Hispanics could swing either way in 2012.  Latinos helped turn Colorado into a blue state for Obama.  And now immigration is creating a lot of friction between the Republican Presidential candidates.  Click here to see Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Perry duke it out at the Republican Presidential debates in Las Vegas the other night.  Polls show Perry’s numbers had already started to spiral downward after it was reported earlier that he had approved of in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants.  Michelle Bachmann doesn’t just want to build one 1200 mile wall, she wants to build two.  In the meantime, Alabama was stopped from trying to get schools to investigate the status of students’ parents but the states can begin deportation efforts if the students families are suspected of being here illegally.   Click here to learn more about  a tough new stance on immigration that encourages schools to ask children what their parents status is .  In Arizona and Alabama, the thinking is that if you can just quietly get “them” to leave, and presumably go back to Mexico, it will open up jobs for U.S. citizens.  The tricky part is the jobs that the illegals are low-pay, come without benefits, offer substandard housing and can involve shifts spent working in fields for 12 hours, 7 days a week.  And some of them aren’t heading home, they’re leaning on already cash strapped social services in surrounding states like Florida. Something has to be done.  And this is a core vote getter with conservative Republicans who recognize that the US cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the issue.  The question is this “let’s make them a little less comfortable” approach better than building a wall?  Isn’t asking a school to help deport a student who wants to learn like asking a doctor not to treat a sick patient?  And do Americans need jobs badly enough that they will step up and apply for the jobs immigrants may be vacating?

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/10/20/analysis-perry-vs-romney-on-immigration/

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/04/should-alabama-schools-help-catch-illegal-immigrants

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/us/politics/immigration-talk-turns-off-some-hispanics.html?ref=immigrationandemigration