The 2012 Presidential and Congressional election is all but over as a result of the adoption by the House of Representatives by a vote of 235 to 193, without a single Democrat “yes” vote for Paul Ryan’s draconian budget. I now believe President Barack Obama will be reelected, and although anything can happen between now and Election Day, I expect to be casting my vote for him.
The Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) budget ends Medicare as we know it in ten years, so that those who reach the eligibility age of 65, ten years from now will get, instead of a government guarantee of medical care, a voucher or as Ryan refers to it, a premium, currently computed at $6,400 with a limited inflation escalator not tied to medical inflation. Because this premium will be insufficient to purchase a private health insurance policy, the beneficiary will have to dip into his or her own pocket to make up what will surely be a sizeable difference. Republican members of Congress, home for the Easter break, are being confronted by outraged constituents who feel betrayed by this fundamental total overhaul (privatizing) of the Medicare program.
Medicaid – medical care for the poor -- under the Ryan plan, will be paid for by block grants to states, so that the health care for 50 million Americans who are not covered by private health insurance will shift to the individual states and ultimately to the taxpayers of those states. Currently Medicaid consumes much of the county taxes, with education taking the balance, in states like New York that impose Medicaid financing obligations on cities and counties. If states have in effect total control over Medicaid budgets and budget deficits continue, you can be sure that Medicaid coverage will be further reduced and the poor suffer even more.
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows that a mere 8 percent of Democrats agree with the Paul Ryan budget’s overhaul of Medicare. More significant, only 14 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Independents agree with that overhaul. The support of Independents is critical for a presidential election victory. I believe the upshot of the Republicans’ support of Paul Ryan’s budget is to assure the reelection of a currently unpopular president.
For most Americans, including myself, the priorities in the presidential election overwhelmingly start with protecting the US from terrorist attacks. In 2004, when I evaluated the positions of the dueling candidates, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry, I decided as did many other Democrats that Bush would better protect the country from Islamic terrorism than Kerry. I do not regret that decision. In the 2008 presidential election, pitting Democrat Senator Barack Obama against Republican Senator John McCain, Senator Obama’s announced positions on foreign affairs were in accord with mine, as were those of John McCain, but the latter’s positions on key domestic matters were in overwhelming conflict with mine. Therefore, I had no difficulty in actively campaigning for the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.
After two and one-half years of President Obama, my doubts on his ability to manage American foreign affairs have grown. His hostility towards Israel, increasing our troop presence in Afghanistan, seeking to remain in Iraq, undertaking a new war in Libya, and his throwing longtime US friend and ally, Hosni Mubarak, under the bus, have severely reduced my enthusiasm for a second Obama term.
I am unhappy with the overall attitude of Democrats towards Israel. The Quinnipiac poll of April 22, 2010, asking the question, “From what you know about the situation in the Middle East, do your sympathies lie more with Israel or more with the Palestinians?” concluded that 46 percent of Democrats supported Israel and 70 percent of Republicans did. I will keep fighting to improve that number among Democrats, while praising the greater support among Republicans.
Had the Republicans not sought to destroy essential protections for the middle class and poor of this country, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax fairness – they favor the top 2 percent of taxpayers -- I would not at this point in time have decided to commit myself to support the reelection of Barack Obama. But the Republicans have charted a radical course that I and numerous other Americans cannot support. For that, they will be punished. They have embraced the three third rails of American politics – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Their proposals effectively destroying them through privatization or substantially reducing funding are anathema to the American public, and they will pay the price: defeat.