(Jim Clark) – In last week’s column, I described some of the happenings at the Senator Dean Heller fundraiser hosted by Bruce and Nora James at their historic Crystal Bay home overlooking the lake. There’s more.
To reset the scene, the event began with cocktails and appetizers in the front yard with the big donors later assembling on Bruce’s deck for a dinner overlooking the lake. This was a smaller group, so the Senator was able to engage in one-on-one Q & A between courses.
As I reported last week, I was somewhat surprised to hear some of our community’s brightest, best and most affluent citizens question the senator on GOP reticence to give an inch on tax increases. Heller pointed out that changes in tax rates do not affect cumulative tax revenues, which have historically been about 18% of gross domestic product whether the maximum tax rate is 91% or 28%. He added that tax revenues are dependent on the health of the economy and that if we let Democrats raise taxes now, the economy could spiral downward.
Here is the second chapter of the Heller visit. Last January, Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan came up with a proposal to put Medicare on a financially sustainable basis by gradually making affordable benefits available by voucher. He might as well have bit everybody on the rear end.
Heller said Democrats and the liberal media have created a boogey man and Republicans don’t seem to have a good counter argument. He told us that dealing with seniors has become a challenge. If he addresses a group of golden agers on Afghanistan, their response is: “Don’t tinker with our Medicare;” if the subject is mass transportation, the response is: “Don’t tinker with our Medicare.”
Some present suggested perhaps the way to save Medicare was to means test it so the well-to-do would pay higher deductibles. This brought a reaction from others present: “Don’t tinker with our Medicare.” The senator pointed out that this illustrated the GOP’s problem on the subject—the system is going broke but it’s political death for policy makers to try to do anything about it.
Some complained that Obama/Reid/Pelosi looted Medicare by transferring $500 billion to Obamacare to pay for indigents because all of us who worked for a living funded Medicare through our payroll taxes. Actually that’s only partially true today. A newly retired baby boomer and his employer paid about $65,000 in Medicare payroll taxes and he or she will receive about $109,000 in Medicare lifetime benefits, net of premiums paid. To do so, a big chunk of Medicare reimbursements will come from the general fund.
Earlier, a special congressional election in a solid GOP New York district went Democratic as the liberal media began running headlines about the GOP wanting to gut Medicare. In Nevada’s special congressional race, Democrat Kate Marshall continuously tries to pin the Ryan Medicare tail on Republican Mark Amodei, yet neither she nor any other Democrat offers any ideas on how to put Medicare on a solvent basis. They just keep kicking the can down the road, hoping voters won’t notice.
Republicans should not back off defending Congressman Ryan’s Medicare proposal nor should they defend the present Medicare, which is a doomed dinosaur of a plan from an earlier era. We used to say it will impoverish our grandkids; now it is more accurate to say it that, unchanged, it will impoverish our kids and maybe even us because we have to borrow from China to pay for it.
Republicans will have to trust that voters can understand the math.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central Committees.)