Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 and is filed under Blog
Much ink has been spilled over how Republicans and conservatives have handled Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare. No one, not even the most liberal Democrat, believes that Medicare does not face a real problem. The program is spending more than it takes in, and will not last for much longer unless serious reforms are implemented. However, the when, what and how of reform is certainly up for debate.
Unfortunately for the American people, an entire political party has refused to put forward a real plan for reforming Medicare. Similarly unfortunate is the fact that the other major political party is split over the issue. It is true that any time you put forward a specific plan with specific numbers attached to it, you are taking a political risk. That is the nature of politics, and it’s not a particularly bad thing.
What becomes a problem is when an issue becomes so overhyped with apocalyptic rhetoric that reform in any direction is viewed as an attempt to undermine what is good for the American people. Conservatives are facing such a problem now. Liberal Democrats have consistently failed to address the problem of entitlement reform. Whether it was President Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security in 2005, or the present Medicare debate, the standard liberal tactic has been to label any attempt to reform these programs as a direct assault on the future of the American people.
So what should be done when a political party, and to some extent the media, make a problem almost off-limits for serious discussion? Challenge the status quo boldly with real ideas for real reform. Sure, it’s almost counter-intuitive. If just talking about reform on an issue is like touching the high voltage third-rail of politics, then you’ve got to come up with a good reform plan, and stick to your guns as you talk about it. Conservatives rightly bemoan the big-government legacies left us by liberal presidents and Democrat-controlled Congresses. But in order to undo the actions of those who took the nation down a wrong path, there must be a combination of courage and conviction in working to offer substantive reforms to the system.
Such a combination was on display recently when Sen. Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald outlining why he was going to fight hard for Medicare reform. Rubio’s message was simple: Americans need Medicare, the program is going broke, and failing to address the issue is failing the trust of every single person who relies on that program.
Frequently Democrats succeed in making advocates of entitlement reform look like they are trying take something away from those who need that entitlement. Well, it’s time for conservatives to seize the offensive and start following Rubio’s example of boldly stating the facts: those who wish to ignore the problem are endorsing the collapse of the system.
Conservatives need to bring their own message of change forward in 2012. That change isn’t going to be easy to advocate for because it goes against almost everything the Washington system has stood for in recent memory. Yet the country needs candidates of courage and conviction to frankly address the problems of today. The pundits and Beltway consultants may advocate for a defensive crouch on hard issues, but the real kingmakers in the American political system are the voters, and conservatives need to trust them to make the right choice when they are treated like adults and told the entire story.
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