Republicans insist they’re playing offense on Medicare and argue the fall campaign will prove that Democrats do not have the upper hand on the issue.
The debate over the popular entitlement program was renewed over the weekend after Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, as his running mate.
Democrats argue the Ryan pick has shifted the focus from jobs to Medicare, where they feel they have the advantage, while muddling Romney’s Medicare attack against Obama.
And neither Republican is making a detailed pitch for his Medicare plan.
“You just have this hodgepodge of junk out there,” said Steve Bell, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Attacking Obama for cutting Medicare can also be construed as an argument in favor of more Medicare spending. As Obama noted on Wednesday, the Affordable Care Act extended Medicare’s solvency by eight years, according to the program’s trustees.
“This debate we’re having now — ‘Well, the president wanted to cut it too’ — where did that come from? Why? Why are you doing that?” Bell said. “Why don’t you just say, ‘It’s going bankrupt. The president wants to continue it in its current form, so it will go bankrupt. And we want to reform it so it won’t go bankrupt’?”
That, to be fair, is part of Romney’s message. He outlined the argument during a press conference Thursday, arguing that seniors will lose access to healthcare services because of the payment cuts in the Affordable Care Act. Romney said his plan would not affect current seniors and would preserve Medicare for future generations.
The overwhelming focus, though, has been on Obama’s Medicare cuts. Bell said that obscures the basic principle behind Romney and Ryan’s plan — that Medicare is bankrupting the federal government and needs to be cut, one way or another.