There is an assumption that the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s GOP presidential running mate will drive senior voters away from the ticket. The argument is because Ryan supports a Medicare reform plan that includes vouchers an an option, seniors will automatically rush to vote for President Barack Obama and Romney will lose Florida, and presumably the November election. That assumption is incorrect. As seniors already signaled with their votes in 2010, they see President Obama as the chief threat to Medicare.
Whatever one thinks about Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, it needs to be noted that he is the vice presidential candidate. His plan is not on the table. In fact, among the two major candidates, only President Obama has actually cut Medicare. The passage of Obamacare into law mandates $716 billion be sliced from Medicare over time. What Obamacare plans to do is have 15 bureaucrats, the “Independent Payment Advisory Board,” not elected by anyone, to determine how to best reduce payments to hospitals and doctors. In later years, the Board is expected to recommend effective ways to ration health care treatment.
The reason the Democrats were hammered in the 2010 elections was in large part due to seniors’ anger over Obama’s Medicare cuts. Remember the concerns and anger at the town hall meetings of 2009? In fact, voters over the age of 65, who comprised 21 percent of voters, voted for Republicans by a huge margin in 2010, 59 percent to 38 percent. Compare that to 2008, when seniors, representing 15 percent of voters, supported Democrats over Republicans 49 percent to 48 percent. That’s a huge shift in support. With the Obama Medicare cuts still law, seniors have no reason to switch back to the Democrats in 2012.
The $716 billion in cuts might be worth it if they were designed as savings to try to make the beleaguered Medicare system more healthy over time, but these cuts by the president are an attempt to slightly reduce the heavy costs of enacting Obamacare, another huge entitlement. None of the president’s Medicare cuts will reduce the deficit a penny. In fact, watching prominent Democrats talk about the Obama Medicare cuts here and here, one gets the impression that they themselves don’t really believe the cuts will actually occur.