Social Security and Medicare have long been called the third rail of American politics. Rarely do politicians attack them because they are so wildly popular. So I’m a bit baffled that Jeb Bush has decided to come right out and say that Medicare should be phased out.
“The left needs to join the conversation, but they haven’t. I mean, when [Rep. Paul Ryan] came up with, one of his proposals as it relates to Medicare, the first thing I saw was a TV ad of a guy that looked just like Paul Ryan … that was pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That’s their response.
“And I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this. They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.”
The Affordable Care Act already reversed the trend that was predicted to leave Medicare bankrupt, extending its life for another couple decades. It wouldn’t be difficult to extend it much further with two simple reforms: means-testing for beneficiaries and lifting the $117,000 cap on income subject to the withholding taxes that support the program.
Politically, this is a really, really stupid move. It might appeal to those attending a Koch brothers event, but it’s going to send everyone running away in droves. And that’s especially true of seniors, who vote at a higher rate than any other age group. They’ve traditionally voted more Republican, but trying to get rid of Medicare is a good way to reverse that trend.