To the delight of the conservative blogosphere, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer brought Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz down a few pegs on Monday as she attempted to attack Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan over Medicare. Blitzer pressed Schultz to admit that current Medicare beneficiaries wouldn’t see changes under GOP reform plans. In fact, Blitzer said in defense of Romney-Ryan, all Americans over 55 need not worry about their Medicare under Republican proposals.
And that’s a good thing? If Republicans’ favored Medicare reforms would not significantly detract from the care seniors receive, why shouldn’t we impose them on the baby boomers on deck to retire? Even if they would clip Medicare benefits, why should the boomers get a pass? In fact, reality argues the opposite. The massive boomer generation will soon eat up so much national wealth in retirement benefits. If structural changes — and I would favor a different program than the GOP’s, but reforms nonetheless — can make seniors’ health-care delivery more efficient, it’s insanity not to save money when the Medicare rolls start exploding. Insanity that you can quantify: Ryan’s plan to allow Medicare spending to grow unrestrained for years yet is part of why, as my colleague Matt Miller is so fond of pointing out, the congressman’s budget framework would add trillions to the debt.
Instead, there is a consensus in Washington to push the pain off on other generations, to apply necessary cost control to younger Americans and — stacking burden upon burden — to hand them the debt-financed bill for refusing reform now. As with climate change, what’s at work here is a despicable political calculus: Younger voters are too few to matter, and older voters are too shortsighted or selfish to embrace reform that might impact them.
Assuring soon-to-be seniors that you favor reducing their grandchildren’s ability to invest in roads, schools and technology because any tinkering with Medicare now should be unfathomable is not serious, and it certainly isn’t courageous. It’s transparently political, and it’s cowardly.