Campaign’s fierce rhetoric on Medicare dims hope for a solution, experts say

BPC's Steve Bell: Nasty campaign rhetoric on Medicare will only damage chances to find common ground in 2013
The Washington Post
Aug. 15, 2012

Many spending hawks in Washington had hoped that Mitt Romney’s selection of leading deficit warrior Paul Ryan as his running mate would open a more candid and sober debate about cutting federal spending.

But the tone of the campaign rhetoric on Medicare — with each party accusing the other of working to destroy the program — has raised concern among longtime deficit-reduction advocates that neither party is preparing the public for what they see as the demographic imperative of curbing Medicare spending.

“Everyone knows that Medicare in its current state is unsustainable. There’s not a serious person out there who argues otherwise,” said Steve Bell, economic policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “And we are now starting to have an emotional, distorted, propagandistic debate about it.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Bell, a former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee under Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), said he fears that Obama will win by demonizing efforts to curb Medicare growth, making it harder to find common ground on the issue in a second term.

“My sense is that this is going to be a referendum, all right. But for people like me, who are really concerned about debt trends, the outcome will be a step backwards,” he said.