- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Before choosing his running mate last week, Mitt Romney was looking at a series of polls that showed him losing to President Obama.
Even the Fox News poll had Obama leading Romney 49 to 40 percent. Something had to be done.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a persuasive editorial that urged Romney to pick Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, and by doing so, inject the conservative crusade for “entitlement reform” as a major issue in the race.
Romney must have been reading it. Now, supposedly, we will have a national debate about “entitlements.” First, we should define the term.
Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary says the word means “the state or condition of being entitled.”
The next definition is better: “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.”
Conservatives have long told us that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have grown too large and that we must “reform” them in the future, if we wish to bring debts and deficits under control.
But the “Ryan budget” would go farther than that, destroying the Medicare program as we know it, replacing it with some kind of “voucher” system, and leaving a great many retirees fighting with insurance companies over their coverage.
While most seniors do have supplemental insurance, since Medicare only pays 80 percent of what it covers, they’re still shelling out far less than they would without it.
The Congressional Budget Office has said that most seniors would pay far more than they are now under Ryan’s budget. Also, he would cut the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, a level that last existed under President Herbert Hoover.
That’s just more of the modern conservative passion for throwing money at the rich. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 62 percent of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from low-income programs, with 37 percent of its tax benefits going to those making more than $1 million per year (source: NBC News).
Again, as usual, what passes for Republican “vision” is nothing more than what the president called “Robin Hood in reverse,” stealing from the poor and giving it to the rich.
Wealthy people don’t need a lower tax rate; but senior citizens certainly do need Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They have worked all their lives and paid for these benefits.
Call it an “entitlement” if you want. But you get these programs only after you’ve paid for it yourself. Nobody is giving you anything for free, and you’re not stealing.
Therefore, Democrats welcome this selection and any debate on “entitlements” that may follow.
When you’re young and you see those taxes come out of your pay check for these programs, it’s easy to resent that. But the older you get, and the closer you march toward retirement and old age, you should have sense enough to be grateful that we at least have this social safety net.
Now if you got fabulously rich and don’t have to worry about any of this, bully for you. But that’s not the lot of the average American, and Democrats understand that better than the other side.
Let’s have a debate on “entitlements,” but let’s also have a debate on military spending. Surely we can end the blank check the Pentagon has gotten for more than a decade now, stop costly, credit card “wars of choice,” and close most of the more than 600 military bases we operate around the world.
Military spending is the 800-pound gorilla in the room during any discussion about cutting spending and bringing debts and deficits under control. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan should be talking about that, too.
* * * * *
Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.