Why Won’t they Listen to Newt?

One of the stranger memes to come out of the healthcare reform “debate” two summers ago, along with death panels and socialism and Obama being the new Hitler, was “keep your government hands off my medicare.” Timothy Noah wrote a good piece about it in Slate at the time.

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” It was funny the first two or three times this angry citizen’s cry against health reform got repeated—Medicare, you may have heard, is a government program, and the only way to take the government’s hands off it would be to abolish it—but the joke is starting to wear thin.

Funny that the Republicans, via Paul Ryan, seem so eager to gift their opponents with their own demagogic slogan. It’s as if they genuinely believe their own propaganda–that with HCR, Obama and the Democrats have been looking to fix something that isn’t broken or, if our existing health care system does have a problem, it’s that it serves too many too generously. They assume that the people who are getting all the freebies are the poor, but they wouldn’t be the poor if they were, which is why, try though they might, Republicans will never be able to balance budgets on their backs. They don’t seem to realize that Medicare is a middle class entitlement and that middle class voters make an even bigger fuss than poor voters do when you ask them to give up something that they’ve come to count on.

These are the same people who told voters that Obama’s HCR would force them to pay more for less, and who promised that they were the ones who could be counted on to preserve Medicare. That’s how many of the new ones won their seats. As Newt Gingrich–a man who knows a thing or two about peaking too early–says, “This is not something that Republicans can afford to handle lightly.”

According to the National Journal, Gingrich went on to caution Republicans that they “need to be prepared to explain why the program needs to be changed and ready to apply pressure on the other side so ‘liberal Democrats can’t get a free ride for attacking change without offering their version of a solution.’ According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more than half of Americans polled believed Medicare was doing well or needed only minor modifications. Among seniors, 66 percent said the program needed minor changes.”

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