One political party overwhelmingly favors a dramatic change to how health care is delivered in this country. The other denounces it, and polls show the public opposes it, too. Yet proponents stick to their guns — and voters punish them for it.
A description of the 2010 mid-term elections and the effect of President Obama's
Irony, thy name is
Make no mistake, this week's shocking Democratic victory in upstate
Instead of a public "fee-for-service" insurance system, the House-backed Medicare plan would require future beneficiaries to purchase coverage through the private market. That's a reform most people perceive as an outright reduction in benefits.
Republicans promptly denounced these "Mediscare" tactics. But that sounded an awful lot like what Democrats said about GOP demagoguery over "death panels" last year. In both instances, the no-holds-barred criticism seemed to work out pretty well for the accusers at the polls.
Ms. Hochul's victory virtually guarantees that Democrats will make Medicare reform efforts — or more precisely, their resistance to them — a key issue in 2012. The failure of the House budget plan in the Senate, with all Democrats and a handful of mostly swing-state Republicans voting no, only underscores Democratic resolve. For the first time in a long time, progressives see a chance to play offense and score some serious political points with voters.
After all, Medicare currently benefits some 47 million elderly and disabled people. It's enormously popular and likely to get only more so as Baby Boomers age into their retirement years.
As effective as this might prove on a purely partisan level, leaving Medicare untouched in the context of deficit reduction would be disastrous, however. The program is simply too large a driver of the deficit to be ignored. The same goes for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, which the Ryan budget plan would turn into a block grant program for the states to run. A recent poll found 60 percent of voters oppose that, too.
Democrats may be thrilled to see Republicans doubling-down on their folly with pledges to stick with the Ryan proposal, but the last thing the country needs is greater polarization. Like last week's breakup of the bipartisan Gang of Six, it's a blow to hopes for any compromise over the budget and a realistic deficit-reduction strategy.
On that front, the clock is still ticking. Next week, the House is expected to vote against raising the debt ceiling, an exercise Treasury Secretary