As George Zornick reported last week, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s budget for the coming fiscal year would have a devastating impact on the poor, elderly and disabled. By turning Medicare into a private voucher system and Medicaid into a block grant program, along with cuts to food stamps, it paints a frightening picture of what would happen if Republicans sweep the next election. Ryan’s plan enjoys enough support to pass in the House. In the Senate, which Republicans are likely to take over because Democrats have so many more seats up for re-election, it would only need a simple majority since budget bills can avoid being filibustered.
And that is why Ryan’s budget helps President Obama. If Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, replaced Obama in the White House, along with a Republican Congress, the Ryan plan would become law. Romney has been a supporter of Ryan’s draconian budgets in the past and he remains so today.
But this places Romney in a bit of a pickle. He must carry older voters by a wide margin to offset Obama’s strength among young voters. He knows what, which is why he disingenuously attacks Obama for cutting Medicare spending as part of the Affordable Care Act. (While that’s technically true, Obama was simply removing wasteful subsidies to private insurers through the Medicare Advantage program. No senior’s coverage was adversely affected. Meanwhile, Romeny supports undoing Medicare altogether.)
Meddling with Medicare and Social Security is very unpopular among seniors, even conservative ones. That’s why the Affordable Care Act faced such strong, and often incoherent, opposition from some older voters, epitomized by the infamous phrase “get your government hands off my Medicare!”