My introduction to the Tea Party involved a Town Hall meeting where several Tea Party seniors were waving signs inscribed “Save our Medicare.” They had been told – and believed – that the goal of Obamacare was to take their Medicare away from them to pay for healthcare for undeserving poor, probably black, folks. That was when I understood that this was not a movement that merited respect.
This impression has been borne out over the last few years as the GOP, which was the sole beneficiary of misinformed Tea Party ardor, has, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, gone after Medicare while basking in the support of the predominantly middle- and senior-aged Tea Partiers. Although Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, for example, has never exactly been a Tea Party favorite, he gets their votes. This is the same Roy Blunt who has voted again and again for Republican budgets that would voucherize Medicare while shifting much of the cost onto the shoulders of the recipients. Almost all GOP members of the Missouri House delegation, overtly Tea Party or not, have also consistently voted to support Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plans, all of which seek to voucherize or otherwise decimate Medicare under the rubric of “reform.”
Now one of the leading GOP presidential candidates, Jeb Bush, has put the issue on the table front and foremost, proposing to “phase out” Medicare. How does he plan to sell this “phase out”? By persuading the gullible that the Medicare sky is falling. Medicare, he claims, is too expensive and will eventually run out of money. Bear in mind that Bush, as Governor of Florida, went all out to cut taxes for the wealthy. It’s no wonder that he can’t imagine that Medicare solvency could be addressed from the revenue side – that’s not the Republican way; instead GOPers all want to reform it out of existence.
Nor, as a Republican, can Bush acknowledge the fact that savings realized through Obamacare have added years to Medicare’s stability, ensuring that the program is financially secure through 2030 – and proving that there are better ways to address the future of the program than to destory it through privatization. Ironic isn’t it? Medicare-baiting was a major mechanism used to rile up Tea Party seniors against Obamacare; now it looks like Obamacare is adding years to Medicare’s solvency. The voice of the Tea Party, the Republican Party, won’t “Save our Medicare,” but Obamacare might help us reach that goal.