Nov 22, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 10 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
The decisive factor, however, may have been the passage of Obamacare. At first blush, this might appear to be a contradiction. After all, wasn’t Obamacare sold (speciously) as a way to cut the deficit? And haven’t Republicans attacked (reasonably) the law’s tax hikes and Medicare cuts? All true. Yet the law also made clear the Democratic approach to entitlements: Cut programs for seniors not to save money, but to spend on whole new programs. And don’t change the architecture of these programs to create savings in the future, but cut indiscriminately into the benefits that seniors receive here and now. Obamacare, Ryan says, “wasn’t an exercise in making Medicare solvent.” It’s an exercise in expansive government—and the public rejects it.
What Obamacare did, quite accidentally, was fashion a political coalition of seniors and independents and conservatives who are more open to commonsense changes in the American welfare state than one might otherwise imagine. Grandma and Grandpa are able to distinguish between laws that kick them off Medicare Advantage and proposals that preserve their benefits while putting Medicare on a sustainable footing for the future. Joe Sixpack understands who is serious about spending and deficits and who is not. And Paul Ryan’s vision for an America that provides a safety net for those who need it the most, while encouraging personal responsibility and opportunity among the able-bodied, is a step closer to reality.