Sure enough, polls show that seniors are the major group that is least supportive of the various health care reform schemes, and the steady erosion of Obama's public approval ratings is being driven in significant part by seniors.
Enter GOP National Chairman Michael Steele. In an op-ed today, Steele proclaimed a Republican Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights that would, in his words, ensure that reform is "not funded on the backs of our nation's senior citizens. "
Steele has a simple point that no amount of scorn for inconsistency heaped on him by Democrats can deny: the principal health care reform bill teed up by Democrats in the House would cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars, all but eliminate the highly popular Medicare Advantage programs that currently enroll eight million seniors and reduce some payments to providers that most likely would result in fewer providers accepting Medicare patients. These provisions -- which are in the House plan very deliberately to "save" money that can then be used elsewhere -- are what makes seniors worry about reform, not hyperbole about "death panels."
The odd thing here, of course, is that one would expect Democrats to be defending the premier accomplishment of the Democratic Party of the last 50 years -- but they aren't. They are throwing up smokescreens to avoid facing the music with their most reliable voting constituents, while keeping their fingers crossed that Republicans won't appeal to seniors, simply because of traditional Republican opposition to "entitlements." And there is already a bit of a backlash against Steele in conservative circles for thus "pandering" to the old folks. Be that as it may, Steele has hit upon the Achilles Heel of the current sweeping Democratic proposals. If he and a few others keep pounding that drum, we will shortly see all but the hundred or so House Democrats who occupy totally safe districts begin to distance themselves from all but the kind of step-at-a-time changes Joe Lieberman suggested Sunday.
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