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On 'Mediscare'

After a surgery-induced vacation, Ben and I return with the Scripps column to debate the "Medicscare" controversy:
Here, in Paul Ryan's own words, is how he plans to reform Medicare: "Give seniors a voucher for private health insurance that grows at a much smaller rate than actual healthcare costs."

What that means is that as health costs grow ever larger over time, elderly Americans will be forced to bear more and more of the price burden. And if they can't afford to do so? They're on their own.

Conservatives love Ryan's proposal, not because it saves Medicare -- it doesn't -- but because it gradually gets the government out of one part of the safety net business. They don't like the safety net! The problem is that most Americans do like having that safety net: A new CNN poll shows 58 percent of the public dislikes Ryan's proposal.

Republicans argue that poll numbers matter less than dollar numbers: Medicare will run out of money over the next decade if reform isn't made. But it's interesting that Ryan's budget proposal also calls for cutting taxes for the wealthy--when effective tax rates for the rich are already at their lowest point in decades.

The GOP had to decide between preserving the safety net or making the rich richer. Is anybody surprised the rich won? Democrats aren't "Mediscaring" voters on the issue -- they're describing Ryan's plans accurately. But they're not covering themselves in glory, either: They haven't offered a plan to shore up Medicare's finances.

Instead, they're counting on the issue to carry the day in 2012.

Republicans want to shrink, even end, the safety net. Democrats want to save it. By opposing Paul Ryan's proposal, Dems are doing necessary work. Unfortunately, it's only half the job that needs to be done.

Liberals must offer their own proposal for Medicare's future.
Ben argues that the "ObamaCare" bill is the Dem vision for saving Medicare, and he's almost right—but the wonkiest liberals believe there's still work to be done.

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