Taking command of the French 9th army in 1914 as it retreated before the Germans, Marshal Ferdinand Foch uttered his immortals words: “Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I attack.”…

In the Medicare debate, schoolyard rules apply: Punch the bully in the mouth twice as hard.

If Medicare reform could be adjudicated in a roundtable discussion hosted by uberwonk Alice Rivlin over tea and scones at the Brookings Institution, it would be one thing. But the tenor and substance will be set by David Axelrod, whose professional obligation is to be witlessly demagogic and wholly dishonest…

Even if it stays on offense, the Romney campaign is on perilous ground with Medicare. But there is no heading back. There is no cute way out.


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.”


GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s new promise to restore the Medicare cuts made by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law could backfire if he’s elected.

The reason: Obama’s cuts also extended the life of Medicare’s giant trust fund, and by repealing them Romney would move the insolvency date of the program closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office.

Instead of running out of money in 2024, Medicare says its trust fund for inpatient care would go broke in 2016 without the cuts. That could leave a President Romney little political breathing room to finalize his own Medicare plan…

“If you are going to restore (Obama’s cuts), then what it’s going to do is complicate the financial condition of Medicare,” said former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, a fiscal conservative who says government health care programs are too costly.


Over time, the demographic pressures will intensify. The Social Security trustees project that by 2040 there will be 80 million seniors (one-fifth of the total population) and only about two and a half working-age Americans for each one of them. Ryan is right to recognize that something’s got to give.

But while he has correctly diagnosed a major problem, his plan ignores another central element of the budget equation: The bitter experience of leaders from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Barack Obama has demonstrated that it is virtually impossible to sell major changes in entitlement programs without bipartisan support. And Ryan’s blueprint seems almost designed to repel Democrats

Virtually no Democrat would support converting Medicare into a premium-support system if it comes in that wrapping. “If Republicans are not going to let the Bush tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers expire, then any kind of serious entitlement reform is off the table for Democrats,” says the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Steve Bell, former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee.


Democrats’ relentless campaigns against Republicans as threatening to “destroy” Social Security and Medicare have succeeded at intimidation — and, curiously, Paul Ryan is proof.

There are two Ryans: what I call the good Ryan and the bad Ryan. Probably more than anyone in Washington, the good Ryan has highlighted long-term deficits’ potential harm to our children and grandchildren. The bad Ryan has fashioned an unrealistic and undesirable budget by trying to accommodate both liberal dogma (don’t cut Social Security and Medicare benefits) and conservative dogma (don’t raise taxes). Any sensible plan must do both…

[T]he elderly would be mainly spared [in Ryan’s budget]. Spending on them in 2030 would drop only slightly, estimates the CBO. Despite this, President Obama warns that Republicans “would end Medicare as we know it.” Liberal pundits say Republicans would “kill” Medicare. It is this cynical fear-mongering that poisons debate. One reason Democrats won’t change Social Security and Medicare is that defending them is so politically rewarding. This, as much as Republican tax intransigence, underlies the stalemate.


Had the president embraced the [Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction] plan, it still likely wouldn’t have passed but it would have provided a new, substantive line of attack. Obama could have, as Clinton did with changes to welfare, stolen the middle ground. Obama instead reverted back to his calls for more stimulus spending, miniature versions of his 2009 program.

Obama let Ryan off the hook. Ryan might have seemed intransigent, but when Obama punted and then offered a budget that ignored the issues, Ryan’s status as a man of big ideas and reason was preserved…

Now, Obama is reaping the unhappy harvest as Ryan crisscrosses the country prosecuting the president’s inaction on debt and deficits. Had Obama done the same to Ryan in the winter of 2010-2011, not only would Ryan not be Romney’s running mate, but Obama could be making a claim on fiscal centrism rather than just launching wave after wave of attacks on his Republican challenger.


President Obama’s campaign calls this an achievement. You think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare is an achievement? Neither do I.

Next time you get your pay stub, take a look at the line that says payroll taxes, FICA. Those payroll taxes that come out of our paychecks are designed for two programs and two programs alone: Medicare and Social Security. But now, because of Obamacare, it’s funding Obamacare as well.

It’s wrong.


Via the Corner.