For the past couple of weeks, I've been visiting my dad at his independent living residence. The youngest person there is about 85. Okay, in fairness, there may have been some whippersnappers in their mid-70s, but it would have been impolite to ask.
Let's just say that Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan didn't go over well.
It's important to put that in perspective. The residence isn't a hotbed of rampant liberalism. When my dad and I get together for dinner with one of his particular friends, we joke that it's an official meeting of the Democratic Club, and that we have a quorum. Quips aside, they estimate that about 75 percent of the residents are conservative Republicans.
Now, to be fair, I didn't do a comprehensive poll of the residence. But it is equally fair to say that Medicare was a topic of great interest. Then again, whenever I visit, Medicare is a topic of great interest. The only reason so many people there answer, "I can't complain," when asked how they're doing is because they know that if they did complain, someone else in the group would top them.
These people care about their Medicare. I mean, they really care about their Medicare. They love it. It's not just that it covers their medical needs, which not only are many but constant, but that it's easy. No researching insurance plans to buy, no figuring out vouchers, no worrying about if they'll be dropped when they have to go to the hospital yet again, just something simple -- they have Medicare. They're covered. Period.
Why do they love Medicare so much? Charlton Heston may have pontificated, "You'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers" when posturing about guns, but when these people say it about Medicare... they actually, literally mean it.
My dad loves Medicare. Not just as a recipient. He was a doctor for over half a century, so he saw it from the opposite end, how it benefits others. He's seen it, too, from when my mother was in the hospital for seven months. The bills would have totally wiped him out. Not a happy prospect to face when you're 90. Oh, does he love Medicare.
And it doesn't matter to any of the people I spoke with if the Ryan-Romney plan says it won't affect them personally. They love Medicare so much they Don't Want It Mucked Around With. You must understand: the elderly often crave stability and consistency, even the smallest change risks upsetting them (changing Prime Rib Night is a really big deal) -- now, imagine changing Medicare. They also simply don't trust people who tell them, "You won't be impacted. And we won't end Medicare for 10 years." Moreover, people in their 80s, let alone their 70s have every intention of living another 10 years and more. (My dad is a punk kid there at 91. Some residents have passed 100.) But more than that, they all have children. And grandchildren. And great-grandchildren. And they want Medicare around for them. With full coverage. Not private vouchers until it disappears. They understand firsthand the benefit Medicare provides America.
And here's the thing: Even if someone believes differently, believes that all the concerns of seniors are unjustified, that private vouchers would actually be oh-so wonderful, that Medicare is socialized medicine and should vanish, that 10 years is plenty of time to ease out of Medicare, that private charities will take care of everyone -- it doesn't matter. Because all these other people are really pissed off. Whether you are or not.
And their response is real. And it is large. And... these are people who vote.
Furthermore, the people I spoke with all know that it is the Ryan-Romney plan that wants to cut Medicare and ultimately get rid of it. Not a one of them believed for a second the GOP lie that it's Barack Obama who wants to gut Medicare. These people have been around the block a few times. And they actually pay close attention to everything about Medicare. Everything. They get their AARP magazine, they read their elder care publications, they discuss it all among themselves. As I said, it's REALLY important to them.
And they know that when the Obama administration cut $716 billion from Medicare, it was cut from the providers, not the recipients. They know it was a cut in over-payments to insurance companies, hospitals and drug companies specifically to keep costs down -- and that all that money was shifted to the Affordable Care Act to cover them even more.
They know this.
And they know that the $716 billion that Ryan-Romney propose cutting from Medicare is cut from them. From the recipients. And that that's just the start of cuts.
They know this.
And it pisses them off. And it frightens them.
And there are a lot of seniors in this country. And they vote.
I don't know what Mitt Romney was thinking when he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. I'm sure there were a lot high-five slaps all around. But I'm also sure he didn't think what a really stupid, cold-hearted, problematic decision he'd just made.
You want an actual death panel? Whoops, there it is...