The Washington Post has a front-page story on Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.) and his fiscal "Roadmap." The piece focuses on the reluctance of GOP party leaders to embrace Ryan's plan, which is fair enough. While Ryan's plan for reforming Medicare and Social Security--or something like it--is necessary if we're ever going to solve our fiscal crisis, no one denies that politically it's going to be very difficult to implement changes to Medicare.
What makes Republicans particularly afraid of embracing Ryan's plan is that it's so easy for Democrats to misconstrue it and scare seniors into thinking that Ryan's plan would affect those currently on Medicare. That's not true. Ryan's plan doesn't touch entitlements for those 55 and older.
The Post does a great job of showing how easy it is to misrepresent Ryan's plan by leaving its readers with the wrong impression that his Medicare reforms could affect current beneficiaries. Here's how the Post describes aspects of Ryan's plan:
They include putting Medicare and Medicaid recipients in private insurance plans that could cost the government less but potentially offer fewer benefits; gradually raising the retirement age to 70; and reducing future Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees. ....
It would slow the expected growth in benefits for many Social Security recipients and would effectively give people on Medicare and Medicaid income-based vouchers to buy private insurance, bringing down the costs of those programs. Democrats say the vouchers would leave many seniors unable to afford coverage
The delayed implementation of his plan is the only reason it's politically viable. Seniors don't want their entitlements cut (see their reaction to Obamacare). Younger voters, by contrast, are more open to free market reforms to programs that they know will run out of money by the time they retire.
Gallup reports that 60% of all workers don't think they'll get Social Security benefits. Not surprisingly, there's a clear break on this question between older and younger workers. Only 22% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 32% of 35- to 54-year-olds think they'll receive Social Security when they retire. But 69% of those 55 and older think they'll get Social Security benefits:
In the interest of being fair and accurate, it's important to clarify that Ryan's Roadmap would only affect those 54 years old and younger.