Wineke: Why Cheney Might Be A Problematic BFF For Paul Ryan

By Bill Wineke Special To Channel 3000

As if Paul Ryan didn’t have enough problems trying to kill Medicare, now he has a new ally, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

?I worship the ground Paul Ryan walks on,? Cheney told an interviewer last week.

I’m not quite sure why Cheney worships the ground Ryan walks on. Ryan is making a name for himself nationally as someone who sincerely wants to cut the national debt. Even President Obama gives him credit for that.

And here’s what Cheney, himself, said about the national debt back in 2002, when former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill warned that the Bush tax cuts would put that year’s budget $500 million in the hole (two years after President Clinton left the nation with a budget surplus):

?You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.?

With friends like that, Ryan doesn’t need Democrats for enemies. Actually, with friends like himself, Ryan doesn’t need Democrats for enemies. Ryan voted for the Bush budgets that added trillions to the national debt through tax cuts, unfunded wars, and the Medicare prescription drug program that was not only unfunded but insisted the government pay full retail price for drugs.

He may be sincere about cutting deficits, but it is hard to avoid the question of whether it is only Democratic deficits that he finds so hard to stomach.

What I do know is that having Dick Cheney in your corner while you pursue fiscal austerity is just a little bit ridiculous.

Ryan insists that Democrats are lying about his program — actually, it is now the official position of the Republicans in the House of Representatives and 40 Republican Senators, they voted on it. He says the Republican plan doesn’t kill Medicare, it saves Medicare because, without his plan, Medicare will go bankrupt.

He’s half right on one count and mostly wrong on the other.

The Republican plan doesn’t ?kill? Medicare, if by killing you mean taking away all government assistance to the elderly.

If you’re older than 55, you get to keep the Medicare you now have. If you’re younger than 55, you will, in 10 or 12 years, be given federal assistance to purchase health insurance on the private market. How much that assistance will be is still a little vague. Ryan says it will cover as much of the Medicare cost as the current program does now.

No one else, so far as I know, agrees with him. Estimates of out-of-pocket cost increases vary all over the place, but the figure I hear most commonly is that it will cost the average middle-class oldster an additional $6,000 a year.

This would have a profound implication for the national economy for reasons I have not yet seen discussed. Here’s why:

The rule of thumb for retirement savings is that you can withdraw about 4 percent a year from your savings to live on after you quit working.

So, if you have to come up with an extra $6,000 a year for health insurance, then you’re going to have to save an extra $150,000 to be able to cover that cost over a period of time. If you’re married, you have to save an extra $300,000.

As I say, the amount you would be required to spend is still vague but the formula applies no matter how much that is.

And if you go to a 55-year-old couple and tell them they have to put aside an extra $30,000 a year from now until retirement, just to have health insurance, you’ve made a big impact on how they will live, what kind of home they will buy, what kind of car they will drive, how much they will give to their church … the list goes on and on.

My guess is Democrats don’t have to demagogue that plan; they just need to explain it accurately. It probably won’t be too popular with those under 55, especially when they learn another part of the plan gives a 29 percent tax cut to millionaires.