It's official: Democrats are on the defensive over Medicare cuts. Never thought I'd see the day. Smell the panic:
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have started attacking President Obama for cutting Medicare in order to pay for Obamacare, and Democrats now fear the attack “could cost us the election,” according to a new email. “This could cost us the election,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) political director Kelly Ward wrote today. “The Romney campaign is up with a new ad campaign trying to confuse voters into thinking that Republicans are the ones trying to protect Medicare. You and I know that Romney and Paul Ryan are dead set on slashing seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for more millionaire tax breaks — but we have to get the facts out to voters immediately.”
Shorter DCCC: "We're in trouble. Republicans are running ads telling voters the truth about Medicare and their policy solutions. Please send money ASAP so we can distort their plan." The President's official twitter account has been tweeting defensively, too. Republicans, meanwhile, remain on the offensive. Here's a new ad from the RNC, digging in on the Obama Medicare cuts reality, and quoting Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter:
Campaign spokespeople never want to make it into their opposition's ads. Cutter has now starred in two. Nice work. This spot is currently just a web ad, but since it clocks in at 30 seconds, the RNC should consider putting it on air. Health care policy expert Jim Capretta believes the Left has fallen into a trap, from which they have no easy escape:
A fair reading of the facts shows that the Romney-Ryan campaign has every reason to believe that they can put the Obama-Biden ticket on the defensive over Medicare. The most salient fact is that, to pass Obamacare, the president cut Medicare by more than $700 billion over the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). And these cuts are of the worst kind. They are arbitrary and across the board. They reduce reimbursement rates for all who provide services to Medicare patients, regardless of how well or badly they treat their patients. Among the cuts is a $156 billion reduction in payments to Medicare Advantage plans over ten years. These cuts will force seniors to pay $3,700 more for their health care by 2017, according to a study I co-authored with Robert Book (for those who might be interested, the cuts are distributed by congressional district here). The Medicare trustees project that the cuts will drive some 4 million seniors out of Medicare Advantage plans between 2012 and 2018.
Further, the Medicare cuts in Obamacare would slash payment rates for hospitals, so much so that the chief actuary of the program has warned repeatedly that the cuts will jeopardize access to care for seniors. He has estimated that if the cuts go into effect, 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes will have to stop taking Medicare patients to avoid the large financial losses that result from getting paid at Medicare rates. By 2030, some 25 percent of these institutions would need to drop out of the Medicare program. Moreover, as Charles Blahous has pointed out, the Medicare cuts in Obamacare aren’t used exclusively to replenish the trust funds that pay Medicare benefits. Instead, they are used to pay for a massive expansion in entitlement spending. To put it in slightly more political terms, President Obama has raided Medicare for $700 billion to pay for his government takeover of American health care. The attack ad practically writes itself, and in fact has now already been written.
UPDATE - I see my own Capretta, and will raise him a Yuval Levin. This is a truly must-read piece, including Levin's link to a thorough and detailed explanation of what the Romney-Ryan plan actually does. But first, his assessment of the quandary in which the Left finds itself:
In the last few days, the Romney campaign has moved to dramatically change the terrain of Medicare politics, and it looks like the Democrats are beginning to realize how vulnerable they might be. Because of Obamacare, it is the Democrats who now plan to cut current seniors’ benefits (especially those in Medicare Advantage) and access to care (thanks to the IPAB) while still failing to avert the program’s (and the nation’s) fiscal collapse, and because Romney would repeal Obamacare and pursue a version of the Ryan-Wyden premium-support reform it is the Republicans who would protect current seniors’ benefits and make them available to future seniors while saving the program from collapse through market reforms. Through the candidates’ statements this week and through this new ad, Romney and Ryan have made clear they’re going to inform voters about this and force the Democrats to defend themselves on Medicare.
That won’t be easy for the Left, since the Romney campaign’s charges are true, and it is beginning to become apparent that the Democrats are totally unprepared for the coming fight. Their defenses so far fall into roughly three categories: Ryan did it too, the Obamacare Medicare cuts aren’t very serious, and finally what can only be called frantic distractions. Even as pure demagoguery (let alone as efforts at actual substantive arguments) all three are exceptionally weak defenses, and suggest the Democrats could be in serious trouble.
I say again, read the whole thing. It's exceptionally well argued.
UPDATE II - I addressed the Democrats' Medicare trap on last night's edition of Cavuto: