Hands off our seniors' Medicare, says ... Michael Steele; Update: Steele 2006: Medicare cuts are on the table

Cynical yet effective, at least short-term.

Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. We also believe that any health-care reform should be fully paid for, but not funded on the backs of our nation’s senior citizens.

The Republican Party’s contract with seniors includes tenets that Americans, regardless of political party, should support. First, we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of “health-insurance reform.” As the president frequently, and correctly, points out, Medicare will go deep into the red in less than a decade. But he and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment. The president also plans to cut hospital payments and Medicare Advantage, all of which will mean fewer treatment options for seniors. These types of “reforms” don’t make sense for the future of an already troubled federal program or for the services it provides that millions of Americans count on.

Dick Morris has been nudging the GOP towards a “scare the seniors” strategy for the past six weeks and now here it is. The political benefits are obvious and there’s a gratifying touch of poetic justice in using the entitlement mindset of a high-turnout demographic to try to derail the mother of all entitlement programs. But even so, the more lip service Republicans pay to Medicare now, the less room they have to maneuver later when Medicare’s rapidly approaching day of reckoning finally arrives. Has Steele conceded too much in trying to derail the Hopenchange express? I’m leaning towards no just because the GOP’s fingerprints are already on the program and once it runs dry the crisis will be severe enough that even Democrats will be forced to support drastic measures, leaving them in a poor position to screech about Republicans selling out grandma. Don’t kid yourselves, though: If the GOP chooses to die on this hill, then ten years from now the left will have greater leverage in demanding cuts to other federal programs (like, say, defense) to free up cash for the Medicare boondoggle conservatives now profess to love so much. Choices, choices.

Actually, I think the fact that the head of the RNC’s been reduced to taking this position at all proves the necessity of stopping ObamaCare now, even if it means a Faustian bargain. Such is the British dependency on universal health care that even Tory leader David Cameron is forced to regularly reassure Britons that conservatives “support the NHS 100%.” We’ll be hearing the same thing — or worse — from Republican presidential candidates about ObamaCare within a decade if America chokes down this crap sandwich. Do what you have to do to hold the line.

Update: Like I said, effective — but cynical. Via TPM, Steele on Meet the Press three years ago:

MR. RUSSERT: Seventy percent is Social Security, Medicare and Defense.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you touch those?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Abso — Tim, everything has…

MR. RUSSERT: Everything’s on the table.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Everything has to be on the table, my friend. We are living in a time — we have to — government has to act like the rest of, the rest of the world and sit back and look at your budget. If you don’t have enough money in any given month, what do you do? You’ve got to reprioritize. You’ve got to take care of the business at hand.