Saturday, October 13, 2012

Biden’s Missed Opportunity In Vice-presidential Debate: Challenging Ryan On Divisive Plan For Medicare And Social Security Cutbacks

Everyone seems to agree that Joe Biden missed few opportunities during this week’s Vice-presidential debates to challenge Ryan with respect to lies or statements that were simply not true enough to remain unchallenged and uncorrected.

But there is one opportunity he missed. . . .

The moderator, Martha Raddatz, said: “Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements” and asked whether the candidates envisioned a future where the benefits under the “Medicare and Social Security” programs would change, or, in other words, whether program benefits would be reduced.

Ryan got first crack at answering.  He started with some warm and fuzzy acknowledgment of what the programs had done for his own family:
    . . . we've all had tragedies in our lives. I think about what they've done for my own family. My mom and I had my grandmother move in with us who was facing Alzheimer's. Medicare was there for here, just like it's there for my mom right now who is a Florida senior.

    After my dad died, my mom and I got Social Security survivors benefits, helped me pay for college, it helped her go back to college in her 50s where she started a small business because of the new skills she got. She paid all of her taxes on the promise that these programs would be there for her.
And then he supplies the kicker which is key.  Note his use of the words “honor” and “reform,” “reform” being the euphemism for altering those programs he has just praised by cutting back the benefits:
    We will honor this promise. And the best way to do it is reform it for my generation.
Notice how Ryan says “my” generation, as if he expects he will be, a significant individual taking part in the sacrifice.  The sacrifice won’t be made by the Romneys and other individuals who in their later years are in the 1%, (I think that’s Ryan’s legitimate expectation about where he’s going to be in his later years), the sacrifice will be made by those people these programs are intended to work for, those who don’t win the 1% lottery in life.

And then Ryan says straight out that he an Romney plan to divide the country up into two groups, the young and the old and make it seem as if his generation’s `sacrifice’ would be part of preserving benefits for the older generation:
    You see, if you reform these programs for my generation, people 54 and below, you can guarantee they don't change for people in or near retirement, which is precisely what Mitt Romney and I are proposing.
So the country would be divided up between two groups, those 55 and above getting all the benefits of Medicare and Social Security that Ryan described as being important to his family, and those “54 and below” who will get something less.  (It does seem as if the Romney/Ryan ticket loves to divide the country up into groups: These who look after themselves and the 47% who don’t, the 30% who are takers and those who supposedly aren’t.)

So Romney and Ryan think that by simply saying this, the older generation should feel secure about keeping their benefits?  They don’t think that people have heard about “divide and conquer” as a strategy?

Let me get this straight: Romney and Ryan want to create a country where one group, an older, aging group that is slowly succumbing to their mortality (i.e. dying off) will have good, traditional Medicare and Social Security benefits, and another group, a group with inferior benefits that, that each year will become an increasingly larger group?  How long do you think that will stand?  How long do you think that the increasingly large younger group will tolerate there being an older group that has better benefits which they don’t?

Who thinks this isn’t a plan to get rid of Medicare and Social Security altogether?  The older generation should feel secure that the Romney/Ryan politicians of the future will continue to “honor” the “promise” of these programs because the older generation has voted to allow them to divide the country up into two factions with antagonistic interests?

But, by the way, let's pay sharp attention here: It isn’t just two groups with newly created antagonist interests that will be created, that younger group now motivated to get rid of the superior benefits of traditional Medicare and Social Security, and the older group from whom they would now like to take them: There is a third group.  That third group is the group of which Romney and Ryan are a part, the group with a 1% mind set that’s is busy figuring out how to send the Medicare and Social Security programs to the trash bin.

So, there it is:  That’s the opportunity Biden missed in the debate: The opportunity call Ryan out on the Romney/Ryan ticket’s divide and conquer strategy to eliminate Medicare and Social Security benefits entirely.

One more thing before we leave the subject of Social Security: It should be recognized that the main challenge currently being faced in keeping the Social Security healthy is that more and more of the nation’s wealth and income is being shifted to an ever smaller wealthy subset of the population who contribute a much smaller percentage of their income to Social Security (the more you earn the less you pay percentage-wise to support Social Security) while drawing greater benefits by also living longer.  It may seem astounding but it's absolutely true, read: Friday, April 29, 2011, Social Security Inequation: This is Rich, Living Longer While Everyone Else Enjoys It Less; Putting Two Together.

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