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Some Things Never Change

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The problem with getting old, the fellow told me once, is that you remember when everything was cheap. There's an offsetting advantage, though: You remember how long politics has been mendacious.

Thus, watching a Republican operative on YouTube pushing a sweet old crone off the cliff in her wheelchair (that's how much Republicans hate Medicare!!) wasn't much different really from watching Barry Goldwater, back in '64, incinerate a little blond girl picking daisies (that's how much Republicans love war!!).

There's no political proposal constructive enough to spare its proposer the attentions of the nuthouse set. Yes, yes, the Agenda Project, creators of the Medicare video, assures us, to the strains of "America the Beautiful," "With pretty boy Paul Ryan's draconian and savage cuts to Medicare in his budget proposal, we have to ask ourselves: Is America still beautiful without Medicare?" And yes, yes, because Sen. Goldwater feared lest America the Beautiful would fall victim to the Soviets, he clearly wanted to bomb every tiny blond girl into extinction. You can see that, can't you? What you love, you kill. Provided you're a Republican.

With all the homicidal maniacs of the right yearning to slaughter and roast the gentle lambs of the left -- this, according to the lambs -- it's a miracle anyone makes a living around here besides funeral directors.

It has to be owned that the burgeoning of the Internet has encouraged people of all kinds to say things under cover of anonymity they wouldn't dare say to others' faces for fear of a horsewhipping. The kind of people who comment, especially those who comment endlessly, on political blogs -- how many would you invite to your daughter's wedding without hiring extra security?

That's enough of that, though. The present point is the difficulty in such a rhetorical climate of getting people to stand still and interact with other people trying to solve a problem such as Medicare. I am willing to be instructed if I am wrong, but the left seems to me responsible for most of the dissonance on Medicare: the squawks, the squeals, the insults and vulgarities, the charges that Rep. Ryan wants, in effect, to throw old ladies off the cliff.

Oh, is this doing a lot for a solution to Medicare's funding crisis! The more some of us blame others for wanting to kill old ladies the larger the opportunities for cordial exchange of ideas across the table, right?

Democrats must think so. Not one Democrat to my knowledge has objected to the red-faced rhetoric aimed at Ryan. Bill Clinton himself has intimated that at best, the Ryan plan for saving Medicare encourages the elderly "to get sicker and die quickly. Or they will be poorer because they'll have to spend so much of their money on health care." Thank you, Mr. President, for that helpful insight.

That Medicare has obligations it can't meet without substantial overhaul is the point the left wishes us kindly to overlook. That Ryan, far from wanting to abolish Medicare, wants to rationalize its finances by funding health care vouchers for those now younger than 55 -- well, that just diverts attention, doesn't it, from his wheelchair scenario. That the left has no Medicare reform plan of its own -- wait, we know (if we read the blogs) what to do. We make the rich and the corporations pay. How very inspiring.

The point we mustn't ignore is that the left hasn't had a new idea about anything since the Great Society (if not the New Deal itself). The left, frankly, doesn't know what to say in the present context, when the old programs are visibly running out of money.

The left knows this, to be sure. When cornered, you yell, you scream, you jump up and down -- as in elementary school. Maybe teacher will send to the office all the kids undermining your self-esteem by not falling in with your notion that long division and the multiplication tables have something to do with reality. Yes, sir, a few things never change with age.

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