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Columns

October 7, 2012

Column: Politicians tinker with Medicare at their peril

The other day I ran into a longtime Washington figure in Republican Party politics, a leading conservative who was large in setting the stage for modern campaign fundraising. I’m withholding his name only because I consider him a good friend, even if I don’t always agree with his positions, something that is unusual in this era of pitched bipartisan warfare.

Before long, we got down to the inevitable discussion about the presidential race. The conversation started off equitably enough, but quickly deteriorated into raised voices that probably were the result of my uttering those four words most people hate to hear even from good friends: “I told you so.” I would have prefaced them with “I hate to say,” but I didn’t because he knew that wasn’t actually the case at all and that would be like treating his wounds with salt.

That I felt the urge to say anything at all stemmed from a conversation — well, more like an argument — we had several weeks earlier over the wisdom of Mitt Romney’s choosing Rep. Paul Ryan as his GOP running mate. It was a mistake, I had allowed, for two reasons: He was the author of the most radical plan to stem the growth of Medicare; and because of his strict religious doctrine on contraception and abortion, he would not be an ameliorating influence with the women voters that Romney certainly needs.

The minor confrontation took place at a monthly gathering of eclectic souls from all points on the political and economic spectrums.

“What do you mean: radical?” my friend demanded as the room grew quiet. “Well, turning the program into a voucher system may not be radical to you, but it is to a large majority of those who are covered by it or are about to be and those are the people who vote,” I replied, adding that it “certainly makes it politically radical.”

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