A candidate who is timid on entitlement reform is not qualified to lead the country.
Medicare reform has risen to the top of the national agenda and will be the defining issue of next year's elections. The outcome of this debate will greatly shape America's fiscal future, because without substantial Medicare savings the budget cannot be balanced. Period.
The second largest federal program and the fastest growing—with long-term liabilities in excess of $38 trillion—Medicare now threatens to bankrupt the U.S. government in the next few decades. The window is closing fast on our ability to reform it without touching current retirees' benefits.
Why, then, do some politicians want to keep putting off what everyone knows are needed fixes? The entitlement debate has long been plagued by Republicans who don't dare and Democrats who don't care. Fortunately, the House GOP now has members who do dare. Under the 10-year budget outline proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and approved last month by the House with the support of all but four Republicans, Medicare would be preserved for future generations by slowing its growth rate without reducing current benefits.
And yet this plan has been attacked by congressional Democrats as "dangerous" and "ending Medicare as we know it"—one TV ad literally shows grandma being thrown off a cliff—while Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich this past Sunday criticized it as "too big a jump" and "right-wing social engineering."
Whoa, that does sound like a pretty "radical" plan. But which part is the radical one? Is it the provision that guarantees that today's Medicare benefits and eligibility remain exactly as they are for seniors born before 1956, and for everyone else for the remainder of this decade? Or is it the part that gradually raises the retirement age to 67 from 65 over a period of 12 years starting in 2022? Or is it the section that gives all beneficiaries a lot more coverage options, similar to the array of health-plan choices currently enjoyed by members of Congress? ....
Under today's Medicare, seniors are subject to an individual mandate more subtle but just as coercive as ObamaCare's. By regulation, seniors must enroll in Medicare or forgo their Social Security checks. By law, they are denied the right to go outside of Medicare and buy the kind of private insurance they prefer. They are thus trapped within a single-payer government monopoly. Add budget pressures to the mix, and you have the perfect conditions for rationing....
The politics of spending has changed. Most Americans understand the math and recognize the challenge. They want to get behind bold, principled entitlement reforms that can save the country from a debt collapse while making the safety net stronger and individuals freer. The Ryan plan plus Medicare freedom is such a reform.
Any serious GOP presidential candidate must be absolutely clear on this issue. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option. A candidate who is timid on entitlement reforms is not qualified to be president.