We had a rule in Wisconsin. It's kind of an unwritten rule: you turn 65; you have to go south for the winter. We call them 'snow birds.' My mom is a snow bird.
So said newly minted GOP VP pick Paul Ryan, as he marched his beaming 78-year-old mother onto the campaign stage Saturday morning at the Villages retirement community in Florida. After impassioning the crowd with a heart-tugging tale about his Medicare-dependent grandmother, Ryan chided Obama for his $716 billion "raid" of the social insurance program.
I find it astounding that Ryan would choose such an occasion and location to go after the president for his supposed economic excess and budgetary abuse. While Ryan's mother may be among the "snow birds" that can flock to Florida for a sunny retirement, almost half of non-retired Florida baby boomers believe they will have to work until they die.
About 54 percent of Florida voters age 50 and older "are concerned they will not be able to afford health-care expenses as they age." They are right to be worried: As Obama's Florida press secretary rightly and unashamedly forecasts, Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it will cost an estimated $6,350 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for future Florida seniors.
The site of Ryan's speech, modestly titled The Villages, is a retirement community near Ocala, FL, home to over 60,000 elderly folks. It boasts 26 executive golf courses, nine championship golf courses, 11 parks, dog parks and fitness trails, a polo stadium, as well as sports and social clubs, including tennis, archery, pickle ball (go figure), Tai Chi and various music and theater groups.
Maybe it's a place like this that colors Ryan's perspective on the typical retiree, and explains why he is so perilously out-of-touch with the real plight of the vast majority of seniors in this country. The setting also undermines his rhetorical pathos.
Amid an electoral circus like this, Americans of every age should be on guard against such weak and easy appeals. It's clear the Romney/Ryan camp is resorting to such tactics to counter the (justified) mass anxiety that Ryan is going to launch granny off a cliff. And when Romney speechifies that his and Ryan's proposal to trample Medicare are the same but not the same, we're right to be confused because... well, it just doesn't make sense.
If the current Republican presidential candidate is seriously concerned with the future of one of the most important social programs in American history, he should put away the whiteboards, stop cheerily grandstanding about how he pays the same tax rate as a bathroom attendant, and begin articulating how a budget plan to cut taxes for the rich and raise taxes on the middle-class will prevent imminent economic disaster.