Paul Ryan speaks about the budget on Capitol Hill, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Remember when, in the 2012 vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan was asked about his plans for Medicare?
Ryan said that, yes, he “absolutely” wanted to “reform” Medicare.
He was less specific about the fact that his favored reform, a so-called “premium support” scheme, rejects basic premises of the popular program and restructures it as a voucher experiment.
Ryan kept that part vague because it scares not just Americans who rely on Medicare but Americans who are nearing retirement age. (In fact, polling suggests, it scares Americans who are a long way from retirement age.)
The fear is legitimate. The reforms Ryan has proposed in various forms over the past several years represent a radical abandonment of the commitment made in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill establishing Medicare with the promise that
No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts. And no longer will this Nation refuse the hand of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and wisdom and labor to the progress of this progressive country.
When he was his party’s nominee for vice president, Paul Ryan sought to address voter concerns about that abandonment by promising not to mess with retired Americans or with Americans who are near retirement age.
At the critical point in the debate, the House Budget Committee nominee explained: “You see, if you reform these programs for my generation, people 54 and below, you can guarantee they don’t change for people in or near retirement, which is precisely what Mitt Romney and I are proposing.”