WASHINGTON — Fired up as once-unimaginable spending cuts start to slice the federal budget, Republicans are launching a new phase in their austerity campaign — resurrecting the party's cost-cutting plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like system for future seniors.
Despite public uncertainty Saturday about the $85 billion in so-called sequester cuts, Republicans now believe they have momentum to ask Americans to make tough choices on Medicare, as rising healthcare costs combine with an aging population to form a growing part of future deficits.
Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, is preparing a budget blueprint that aims to balance revenue and spending in 10 years. But his effort has run afoul of the GOP vow not to change Medicare — the federal healthcare program for seniors and the disabled — for those now 55 or older.
Medicare eligibility currently begins at age 65. Ryan's approach would transform the benefits program into one that would provide a fixed amount of money in a voucher that future seniors could apply to the cost of buying private health insurance or to buying coverage through traditional Medicare.
Throughout last year's presidential campaign, the GOP promised not to change Medicare for today's seniors — only the next generation. But Republicans familiar with the number-crunching in Ryan's budget committee say balancing the budget may not be possible unless the changes start for those who are now 56 and younger.
Look, it was one thing when the Republicans passed Paul Ryan's original medicare coupon-ification plan in 2011. No doubt they were riding high after the midterms when the Teahadists helped put them back in power, and thus were deluded enough to think that was proof that the rest of the country wanted them to implement their Dickensian agenda. But now, after getting their clocks cleaned in the last election, these nimrods decide to float the idea of a medicare proposal that is (if you can believe it) even worse than the one Republicans in both chambers voted for two years ago? Seriously?
The Dems couldn't dream of getting a greater gift to hammer the Reps in 2014. Ryan's original medicare budget definitely had negative repercussions for him. Sure, one would think this is simply another attempt to fire up their base, but this'll be an even harder sell considering most Teabaggers are on medicare and the Republicans can't use the ten year "easing period" excuse anymore.
Whatever. Not like I'm complaining. Anything that'll drive the Republicans further into the fringe is a good thing.