Donald Lambro

No sooner did Democrat Kathy Hochul win a special election in a three-way race for an open Republican House seat in New York -- largely by running against Ryan's Medicare plan -- Schumer sent out an e-mail touting the 'power of Medicare' to defeat Republicans in future elections.

One of the chief reasons why Democrats took back a GOP district Tuesday, Schumer wrote, 'voters of all political persuasions clearly do not want to destroy Medicare.'

This is the strategy throughout the party leadership. In the House, for example, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, offered the party's perfunctory political line that Medicare 'needs to be on the table,' but made it clear that he and fellow Democrats have no plans to offer any reforms to save it from financial collapse. 'That is the same mistake that... Ryan made,' Hoyer told The Washington Post.

Notably, the GOP's major presidential contenders have remained at arms length from the Ryan Medicare plan, preparing to offer plans of their own.

Their strategists say privately that starting a fight over how to scale back medical benefits for the elderly is not the way to win back the White House in 2012.

In an earlier column, I said that Medicare reform should have been place on a separate track that assigned the issue to a special House and Senate task force to develop a bipartisan reform plan. And that can still be done now. One of the third rails in American politics can't be dealt with in the usual budgetary process, like cutting HUD grants.

Meantime, Republicans should begin escalating their firepower on the economy, clearly the Democrats' major weakness and President Obama's Achilles heel. Nearly 20 million Americans are jobless or underemployed, most small businesses are struggling, new jobs are being created at an anemic rate that economists say will not lower 9 percent unemployment to normal levels over the next two years.

A string of economic reports paint a gloomy picture of the third year of the Obama economy: Retail sales growth slowed in April, the smallest gain since last July; $4-a-gallon gas has become a hardship for 71 percent of Americans, according to an AP poll; home construction starts tumbled last month; and the Conference Board, an economic forecasting group, has lowered its index of economic indicators, its first decline since last June, saying future 'economic activity may be choppy.'

Then there is Washington's fiscal mess. Unless runaway federal spending is curbed, the nation's public debt is racing toward an unprecedented $20 trillion before the end of this decade, further endangering our economic future.

The White House, Charles Schumer and his fellow Democrats are irresponsibly silent about all of this.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.