by Walter Brasch
AR Senior Correspondent
August 24, 2012
ROMNEY TAX-RETURN DEBATE OPENS A WINDOW ON HIS SOUL
DUMMERSTON, Vt., Aug. 24, 2012 -- Republicans can be thankful for one thing this week. With all the fuss over the comments of Missouri Congressman Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin, and his exposure of the party's retrograde position on abortion, no one is talking about Medicare.
That the Republican Party hates women is not a news flash. But since our news media can only focus on one thing at a time, the biggest story about how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to campaign for the White House on a platform of cutting Medicare and Social Security is getting lost in the shuffle.
But we need to keep our eyes on the ball. Voters need to remember that conservatives have never liked Medicare. They fought against its creation in 1965, and have been trying to kill it ever sense.
But Medicare, the federal health insurance plan that covers 46 million American seniors, has been one of the federal government's great success stories. Before Medicare, only half of Americans over age 65 had health insurance. Combined with Social Security, these two programs have reduced the rate of poverty for seniors from 35 percent in 1959 to under 10 percent today.
That's the reason why conservatives have attacked both programs, and why those attacks have gotten more brazen in recent years. If the core of your political philosophy is that government can do nothing right (unless it is blowing stuff up in distant lands or transferring wealth to the already wealthy), you can't very well allow a government program that is successful and popular to survive.
That's why when you hear Republicans say they are going to save and protect Medicare, you should assume that they are lying.
Here is the balance sheet:
Presented with these two plans, which candidate for president is going to protect Medicare? President Obama and the party that created Medicare, or Mitt Romney and the party that has opposed Medicare for a half-century?
Of course, if we had a properly functioning democracy, we would be doing something more for 50 million Americans without health insurance and the 25 million Americans with inadequate health insurance. We would not accept seeing 1 in 5 Americans postponing medical care because they can't afford it, or seeing more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies brought on by medical bills. We would be talking about expanding Medicare to Americans of all ages.
The reality is that Medicare has done a better job in controlling health care costs that private insurers, and its premiums are about 20 percent lower than private insurers. When private insurers have been allowed into Medicare, such as the Medicare Advantage program, they have delivered less care for more money.
But we no longer have two sane political parties. Whether it is women, old people, Latinos, gays, or the growing ranks of the poor, the fanatics and loons that now control the Republican Party have only one answer - drop dead.
Todd Akin and Paul Ryan are not isolated examples. They reflect the mainstream thinking of their party. If and when the Republicans convene their national convention in Tampa next week, you will hear more extreme ideas, for the party is not even trying anymore to hide or camouflage their extremism.
This is how far gone we now are as a democracy. We can only hope that a majority of Americans will realize that, while the Democrats have not been any great shakes, giving today's Republican Party control of the White House, Congress and the federal judiciary guarantees that our nation will head straight into the abyss.
Chief of AR Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.