Yet I found myself disheartened as I read about the Democrats’ gleeful reaction to the victory in New York. They had a strategy now: bash the Republicans into submission over the Ryan plan. In the Senate, the Democratic leadership forced a vote over Ryan’s budget purely to force Republicans to cast a vote “against” Medicare. Clearly, the Democrats are going to make hay over the very idea that Republicans were trying to mess with Medicare, the most sacrosanct federal program of them all.
Why is this discouraging? Because even if Ryan’s solution is wrongheaded, he’s right that Medicare is headed for trouble. It might not be in nine years, but as health care costs continue to rise uncontrollably, and as baby boomers continue to age, Medicare will gobble up an ever larger percentage of the federal budget. “The problems are real,” said Alice Rivlin, the Brookings Institution fellow and former Congressional budget director (and a Democrat).
To put it another way, while the Democratic Party might be well served in trying to use the Ryan plan to bury their political opponents, the country itself is not. The debate we need is not about whether Medicare should be reformed, but how.