And now, Ryancare

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Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate won’t make a lot of difference to voters in this conservative state. He probably could have put Lucifer himself on the ticket and still won Kentucky, as John McCain did in 2008. The commonwealth’s political defiance bucked the mainstream then but might not again if the nation’s swing to the right remains as solid as it was in the congressional elections of two years ago.

Kentuckians, who accept lots of government assistance but still resent it, have new conflicts to resolve in their minds with Romney’s selection of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate. Heretofore, the debate over whether to repeal Obamacare has played off comparisons to Romneycare, which the Republican presidential hopeful brought to Massachusetts. Now there’s Ryancare to make things even more confusing.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is best known for his plan to change Medicare, over time, from a government-managed health care bureaucracy into a privatized program which has Washington issuing vouchers that Medicare recipients would use to purchase private medical insurance. Only those now younger than 55 would be affected, he says – everyone currently over 54 would continue to get the existing Medicare deal when they become eligible, although under Ryan’s plan the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage which was closed by the Affordable Care Act would reopen. Democrats charge the congressman’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it.” He counters that he’s trying to save Medicare.

Ryan may or may not have the right idea, but somebody’s going to have to do something about Medicare. Government figures project the program will go broke by 2024, nine years before the Social Security trust fund runs out of money. Medicare is unsustainable without service cuts or tax increases. The Affordable Care Act takes $700 billion out of the program, which is generally reserved for those 65 and older. The Associated Press reported that while Romney supports restoring that money to Medicare, Ryan’s House Budget Committee let the cuts stand.

The reality is that demand for Medicare services can only rise as the nation continues to age. Those who were fortunate enough to avoid serious health problems in their youth and middle age generally find they require more treatment thereafter. Unless they’re independently wealthy, they’re hard-pressed to pay these expenses without affordable health insurance. That’s where government steps in, or has.

Ryan’s vision is for the bureaucratic role to diminish even as demand for assistance grows. It’s somewhat analogous to the shift from traditional pensions to 401(k) accounts that have most workers taking big investment risks to save for retirement. More were enamored of this approach during the Clinton boom years when the potential for stock market growth seemed boundless. But the Great Recession that began in 2007 put a big hurt on 401(k) nest eggs. Some who’ve gone through that ordeal are leery of privatized Medicare or Social Security (another Republican theme). But disenchantment with liberal ideology runs deep, and the Republican candidates will persuade many their way is better. Prepare for the mother of all sales pitches.

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  • I thought "Lucifer" was on the Republican ticket?.....

  • The Lucifer comparison is actually a religious comparison to President Obama, who many Kentuckians think is the Anti-Christ. In this state, Lucifer could head the ticket and still beat President Obama...or for that matter, anybody who is white.............. Kentuckians disenchantment with liberal ideology runs deep, so they have suspended all reason and logic, preferring not to see these problems with their minds, but with their hearts and their guts. If they used their minds, they would see that Ryan, the "fiscal hawk" that has the Republican base all fired-up by his referring to our country's problems as the result of "misguided policies". What Ryan and Romney will not tell us is that Ryan voted for all the things that have helped us to go from the 1990's surplus to our current "crushing debt". Stuff like the unfunded Bush tax cuts ($1.7 trillion), both unfunded wars (not cheap), Medicare D entitlement plan, more defense spending and more unfunded tax cuts, then there was the TARP bank bailout...that is a lot unfunded spending (McCain called it "spending money like a drunken sailor"). What kind of lunatic would vote for every one of this fiscal time bombs...that would be Paul Ryan. His plan is to gut medicare and give it to the rich in tax cuts. That is Romney's plan too, but he will not tell you that now (although like a lot of other things too, he has before). He is counting on you not to remember it. But I am sure that Kentuckians using their gut feelings, will oblige.

  • Not sure if the "Lucifer" comparison was actually aimed at Sarah Palin or just a misstep in journalistic prhasing but either way it works for me and I loved it.

  • in a perfect world, privatization of health care, retirement accounts, everything else republicans resent, would be great. in a perfect world, a free economy works great. but there's one very important thing republicans forget, it's not a perfect world, and in a free market economy, there are winners, but there are also losers. and the losers aren't always the deadbeats sitting on the street corner. they're our elderly, they're single parents, and they're all someone's family. that's why there are some things that just can't be privatized. and if everyone participates, the stronger they will be. think.