Seniors, if you don't read anything but this column’s first paragraph, please note: If you are 55 or older, Paul Ryan's plan to save Medicare will not affect you. There is nothing to fear.
Paul Ryan, a Congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin, is the Republicans' House Budget Committee Chairman. Two years ago he proposed a federal budget that's been sliced and diced by critics - some Republicans, but mostly Democrats, who are determined to see it fail. Ryan's proposal included ideas about saving a failing Medicare system that is doomed to bankruptcy if left as it is.
The gist of Ryan's plan is to allow those younger than 55 options between traditional Medicare and vouchers returning care decisions back to the patients, their physicians and their insurance companies.
When introduced, Democrats used the opportunity to swat at Ryan's proposal. They produced nasty political ads showing a Ryan look-alike pushing a senior in a wheelchair uphill and off a cliff. The ad was tasteless and misleading, but was heavily played on the Internet and television during prime time news slots, when 70 and 80 year olds are likely to be sitting in front of the TV. It was all with the expressed purpose of showing Congressman Ryan as a heartless, insensitive Republican – although the changes to Medicare wouldn’t apply until 2023.
The Democrats' ploy worked. Frightened seniors called their Congress members and demanded that Ryan's budget proposal be rejected. Ryan's ideas failed to move in the Democrat-controlled US Senate.
The determined Ryan continued to work, interview with media and make adjustments to the proposal. And all the while, his demeanor, knowledge and temperament drew Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attention. After vetting and meeting with several other potential running mates, Romney announced last Saturday that the feisty Ryan was his pick as a vice-presidential running mate.
The announcement was well-received by the Republican Party's conservative base. Ryan, a Midwestern Catholic that wrote speeches for former presidential candidate Jack Kemp, put up yard signs for House Speaker John Boehner and still lives on the Janesville block where he grew up, drew praise.
But all his political campaign experience and his hometown boy persona aggravated Democrats. They declared "giddiness" over Romney’s choice, saying his pick would greatly threaten any chance of Romney being elected in 2012 because of his VP pick’s proposed budget, much of which Romney has worked into his own plan.
We have yet to see the Democrats' plan to save Medicare past 2017. In 2009, the Medicare Board of Trustees found the trust fund Medicare uses to pay for beneficiaries' hospital care will be insolvent in five years, as the program has been paying out more than it collects in taxes and interest. The report said Medicare would have to deposit $13.4 trillion into an interest-earning account today in order for the hospital fund to pay its scheduled benefits over the next 75 years.
If there's a reason to be concerned, it's that Democrats offer nothing to fix Medicare. That, folks, is scary.
Political pundits suggest the November election will come down to how five swing states vote. One of those major swing states is Florida, heavily inhabited by retired seniors from all over the nation. They are very concerned that their retirement income stays put and their health care is intact.
Florida seniors fear what they've heard about the Ryan budget from the political ads they’ve seen. They're worried about their own situations more than they are the future of the country, the pundits say.
Seniors, if you're now in your 80s, you are living longer than any other generation in known human history. You've worked for and benefited from solid and generous pensions, a dependable Social Security income, and an excellent Medicare health plan. Your situations may have changed slightly if your retirement plan now requires that you contribute to your health care plan, but as a whole, you're comfortable.
Will you vote to maintain the status quo even though doing so will elect leaders who are unwilling to fix the problems for those following behind?
When I heard that seniors are scared of the Ryan budget plan and are succumbing to the fears spewed by Democrat-supported interest groups, I was insulted. While I'm not a senior yet, I am blessed to have nine beautiful grandchildren. Shortly, I will be faced with the same challenges Social Security recipients and Medicare beneficiaries endure. But I will not be voting based on fears of what Ryan's budget changes will do to me.
I will be voting in November with one thought in mind -- what we will be passing onto our legacy. With all my heart and being, I want to pass on a nation that clings to liberty and freedom. I want the next generation to dream big and be allowed to pursue those dreams uninhibited by an overbearing, demanding and insatiable government.
The only thing for rational seniors to fear is not losing Medicare or Social Security. It's leaving behind a bankrupt and enslaved America.