Mitt Romney’s announcement last weekend of Paul Ryan as his running mate answered a big question about his priorities. But it also raises a lot of new questions.
For example, can Valley seniors really afford the extreme, out-of-touch agenda that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are selling?
For years, the men and women who worked in our steel mills, auto plants, and hospitals, who loaded and drove trucks, built our homes, factories, schools, and roads, who went to war to preserve our freedom and the American Dream, paid into our country’s safety net — our Medicare and Social Security programs. We all know that the members of these great generations — our mothers and fathers, grandpas and grandmas — played by the rules and planned for their future. They looked forward to retirement years secure in the knowledge that they would receive the benefits they earned.
But with the choice of Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s message to seniors is now the same as his message to the autoworkers at Lordstown: “Go bankrupt.”
Paul Ryan’s radical plan for our country would end Medicare as we know it — turning it into a complicated voucher system that could force Valley seniors to pay thousands of dollars for the care they need. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, this kind of health care plan would increase costs for seniors by $6,350 per year. Romney calls this plan “marvelous.” Seniors suddenly hit with huge medical bills will, undoubtedly, use other words to describe this outrageous scheme.
Seniors living on fixed incomes would be forced to choose between keeping up their home or buying the prescription drugs they need, visiting their grandchild’s graduation or paying for a medical procedure critical to their well-being.
The irony is that Valley seniors have always been willing to sacrifice to keep our country strong, to ensure a brighter future for their kids and grandkids. But who are Romney and Ryan asking them to sacrifice for now: millionaires and billionaires who will receive trillions in tax cuts paid for by the drastic Medicare cuts they want to impose.
But it’s not just Medicare that’s at risk, it’s Social Security as well.
Ryan’s plan mandates that people under 55 divert about half of their Social Security payroll taxes away from the traditional program and into private accounts. That means the retirement security for millions of Americans will be subject to the whims and fluctuations of the stock market.
In addition to the irresponsible cuts to Medicare and Social Security Romney-Ryan favor, the Republican pair would also overturn the entire Affordable Care Act — a law that protects seniors by cutting wasteful spending in Medicare. Those savings improve the quality of care for seniors, reduce costs, and extend the solvency of the Medicare by eight years.
By repealing the Affordable Care Act, Romney and Ryan would reopen the Medicare Donut Hole, which, until it was closed, forced our parents and grandparents to pay thousands of dollars per year for life-saving prescription drugs.
Seniors should be concerned about what Romney and Ryan will do the Medicare and Social Security benefits they paid for and earned and what this draconian plan would do to the America they worked and fought to build for future generations.
Betras is chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.