THE BLOG
11/07/2012 01:53 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

Obamacare Won the Election -- Now Medicare and Medicaid Must Win the Fiscal Showdown

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After two years of raging debate about health care and the most expensive and polarizing presidential election campaign in our nation's history, Obamacare won on Nov. 6, and it's here to stay.

This election secures the guarantee of high quality, affordable health care for every American, without insurance company abuses and hassle.

President Obama has won a second term that guarantees a bright future for the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate has turned more progressive. This strengthens the hand of supporters of the middle class. Lawmakers should not even consider beneficiary cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. People depend on the protections in these programs, and they are the backbone of the American dream. We need to defend them, not cut them.

Instead of making cuts that hurt working families, Congress should focus on creating jobs and growing the economy.

This election was a tremendous victory both for the middle class and families working their way into it. It was an affirmation that voters want a government that solves problems. It was a rejection of the "you're on your own" philosophy that tears down protections for seniors and working Americans while giving tax breaks to the super-rich and corporations like Big Oil.

Voters repudiated Romney economics and the Ryan budget in favor of a bold vision for a nation built on equal opportunity and shared prosperity. That's the agenda that President Obama and the Democrats promoted on the campaign trail: creating jobs and rebuilding the middle class; protecting programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and demanding that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.

There's some talk that Medicare wasn't a "winning" issue for Democrats. If so, that's because the Republicans pretended to share the Democrats' half-century commitment to Medicare while ignoring their own Medicare-killing budget proposals. Romney and the GOP took the savings of $716 billion in overpayments to insurers and health care providers and falsely depicted them as cuts that threaten the care of seniors. They did this to take the focus off Paul's Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it.

As for Medicaid, it remains as wildly popular with the public as Medicare and Social Security. Voters are not expecting it to be cut after this election.

There is also a lot of talk about whether this election created some type of mandate or it actually reflected the public's preference for a divided congress and more bipartisanship. While everyone sorts that out, here's one thing we do know: President Obama chose to end his historic campaign with a stirring message that was a warning to those who would hurt the middle class in the name of deficit reduction.

He said:

If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or let insurance companies discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor or elderly or disabled, or kick kids off of Head Start -- I'm not buying that. That's not a price I'm willing to pay. That's not bipartisanship. That's not change. That's surrender to the same status quo that has hurt middle-class families and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class for way too long.

He delivered that message at rallies in battleground states, boosting turnout and producing crucial wins.

In the lame duck session or at any other time, Congress shouldn't make any beneficiary cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Lawmakers should not shred the safety net that poor and working families depend on or shift costs to the states. Instead, they should make corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share in taxes, beginning with ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of Americans.

Any "grand bargain" that includes beneficiary cuts to Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security is no bargain for the middle class. Any grand bargain that lets the wealthiest Americans off the hook is no bargain for the middle class.

We did not win this hard-fought election to lose a fundamental and significant fight about this country's future.

The 2008 election was an aspirational one about hope and change. The 2012 election was about continuing the hard work of making real change despite big external obstacles and political opponents who'd rather sabotage than collaborate to get things done. The biggest lesson from the last four years is that we win the most when we fight the hardest and never back down.

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