The Medicare Scare is Heading To Philly

Pennsylvania Republican Pat Meehan voted for cuts after promising he wouldn't. What's next?

Something happened in western New York this week that is ruining the Memorial Day weekend for the handful of newly-elected Republican Congressmen in our area.

There was a special election in New York’s 26th district, the one once held by the Craigslist Congressman Chris Lee. The 46-year-old married man resigned after he posted a shirtless picture of himself on the Internet site in an attempt to troll for one night stands. What happened next is even more stunning, despite an overwhelming Republican majority in the district, the GOP candidate lost.

Lee’s topless Internet splash wasn’t even an issue. Medicare was seemingly the one and only thing that mattered. Democrats ran a highly effective smear campaign against Republican Jane Corwin for supporting the GOP budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), which in a decade would transform Medicare into a voucher program.

The attacks ads—which seemed more like Saturday Night Live skits than political commentary—flooded the airwaves and Internet. One showed a senior citizen mowing lawns with the aid of a walker to raise money for the voucher program. Another featured a Paul Ryan look-alike dumping an elderly woman out of her wheel chair and off a cliff.

The ads worked. Democrat Kathy Hochul won easily. And senior citizens favored her by almost 80 percent. Voters told exit pollers their top issue was Medicare.

Freshman Republicans like Pat Meehan in Pennsylvania’s 7th District should be worried. Meehan voted for the cuts in Medicare and specifically the voucher program after promising in the 2010 campaign that he would vote against it. Democrats have posted Meehan’s promise on YouTube and you can expect it to be featured prominently in TV ads in 2012, along with more ads showcasing granny falling off a cliff.

But in the Democratic celebration of having an issue to knock off Meehan and other Republicans in 2012, something more important is lost. Every time someone makes a serious attempt to curtail the sky-rocketing costs of Social Security and Medicare, they are politically demonized.

President Bill Clinton used a Republican Congressional attempt to cut entitlements to win re-election. Democrats smeared a President George W. Bush plan to allow more individual options for Social Security retirement funds as “privatization.” That is what is happening to Paul Ryan now and we can expect the same in 2012.

The end result? Nothing gets done. Right now payments for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up over 40 percent of the federal budget, a budget that is 1.4 trillion dollars in the whole. And with more and more Baby Boomers joining the ranks of the retired, it is clear that no matter what other steps are taken, entitlements must be controlled.

But every time a politician, like Ryan, is brave enough to take on the unpopular task of proposing real cuts, they are attacked for putting grandma on the streets to fend for herself. President Obama put together a bi-partisan deficit reduction commission, but when they came back with a series of ways to reduce entitlement spending, the commission was ignored. To this day not one of the recommendations in the report (paid for by American taxpayers) has been enacted.

In Washington there is no political gain in actually doing something. But there is great political gain in not doing anything except attack those people who dare do something.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Thursday. See his previous columns <a href=””>here</a>. To watch his video commentaries, go to <a href=””></a>.