Roginsky: The Republicans Bizarro World

The death panel threats failed to work. The Soviet health care analogies failed to work. The debt explosion forecasts failed to work. Now, in the face of a Congressional Budget Office analysis showing that health care reform can lower the deficit by $81 billion over ten years, Congressional Republicans and their Greek chorus are hitting a new low in fear mongering: scaring seniors into believing Democrats will achieve these savings largely by cutting Medicare benefits.

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Never mind that House Republicans just this year tried to privatizeMedicare. Never mind that it was Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, a leading proponent of the death panel fallacy, who shut down the federal government in 1995 because President Clinton would not go along with drastic Medicare cuts. Like a Hollywood starlet who reinvents herself for the right role, Washington Republicans have discovered their inner senior champion. Forget the drastic cuts they championed just a few months ago. After forty years of opposing Medicare, Republicans today are suddenly concerned about making sure no one tampers with it.

Healthcare coverage and the hastle of forms
Healthcare coverage and the hastle of forms

In reality, the Republican leadership is panicking as influential members of their own partycall for health care reform. Desperate to do something, they are throwing their latest Hail Mary pass to frighten seniors with baseless allegations. In their rush to maintain the untenable status quo, Congressional Republicans fail to mention that the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill specifically prohibits cuts to Medicare benefits and eligibility. Under this legislation, grandma’s loss of access to her doctor is about as likely as grandma facing a death panel of government bureaucrats.

Unlike the modern Republican Party, President Obama is smart enough not to commit political suicide by curtailing senior access to health care. As the party which created Medicare and has protected it from four decades of Republican attempts to cut and privatize it, Democrats understand that senior health care is politically sacrosanct. Logically, the same Administration that wants to provide health care to all Americans is not going to achieve universal coverage by depriving seniors of their access to care. There’s no universal coverage without maintaining care for seniors.

Healthy Horizons -- A Special Report
Healthy Horizons -- A Special Report

Lacking any specific legislative suggestions of their own and concerned about possible defections within their own party, Republicans have resorted to scare tactics. The “Mushroom Cloud” of seven years ago has morphed into the “Death Panel” of today. In the absence of substantive policy proposals, one of the great political parties in this nation has resorted to scaring the bejesus out of seniors to get their way.

Any proposal the scope and size of health care reform has plenty of real components with which a serious political party can take issue. Whether it is because an intellectual laziness has permeated Republican leadership or whether it is because the most vocal opponents of reform find scare tactics to be an easier route than substantive debate, the allegations on which they base their opposition don’t even pass the laugh test.

If seniors and the rest of us have anything to fear, it’s not the non-existent death panels and benefit cuts. It’s the condescension with which many opponents of health care reform choose to insult our intelligence.

Julie Roginsky is a CNBC contributor who has extensive experience in government, politics and public relations on both the federal and state levels including serving as the Washington communications director for former Senator Jon Corzine.