By John Tierney
Medicare is now front and center in the 2012 campaign. There are two very different views on the future of the Medicare program, and it is important that voters have the facts before they decide.
Unfortunately, my opponent, Richard Tisei, has decided to follow a scheme invented by Washington Republicans. Their idea? End Medicare as we know it, but invent wild stories that twist the facts in order to confuse voters about their plans.
Last week, Mr. Tisei published an op-ed defending Republican Paul Ryan's plan. In it, he stated that I supported a $716 billion cut to Medicare. This is 100 percent false. And don't just take my word for it: Look it up. Many nonpartisan fact-checking organizations, including CNN, Time magazine and The Boston Globe, have said it was not true. The nonpartisan fact-checking website PolitiFact called it a "pants on fire" lie.
Mr. Tisei even went on to cite right-wing talking points about unelected Medicare panels ... and who came up with that story? Sarah Palin.
Now, it's not surprising that Mr. Tisei -- who famously called the tea party "a godsend" and who is getting literally millions of dollars of support from Washington Republicans -- would try to pull the wool over voters' eyes with this kind of right-wing nonsense. But it does a disservice to voters and to seniors who deserve to know the truth about the Republican plan that Mr. Tisei supports so much.
So let's just stick to the facts.
The Republican Ryan budget plan that Mr. Tisei supports would end Medicare by privatizing it and turning it into a voucher system, raising health care costs for seniors by $6,400 while protecting tax breaks for millionaires.
Again, don't just take my word for it -- see what reliable, nonpartisan authorities say. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said that the Republican plan "would end traditional Medicare." AARP agreed that the Republicans' "experimental and unproven" plan was terrible for seniors and would cost them much more. The Center for American progress found that the Republican Ryan budget would give millionaires an additional $265,000 tax cut.
No less an authority than Newt Gingrich called this Republican plan "right-wing social engineering." I have rarely been accused of agreeing with Newt Gingrich on a lot, but he sure hit the nail on the head on this one.
Mr. Tisei and I could not disagree more on the future of Medicare. He supports a plan to privatize it and end it. I believe that seniors who have worked hard deserve a secure retirement and affordable health care. This is a sacred commitment. I have supported a plan that strengthens Medicare and lengthens the life of the program by getting rid of subsidies to private insurance companies so there is more money for seniors' benefits in years to come. AARP supported the same plan I did because it protects and strengthens Medicare. AARP opposes the Republican plan that Mr. Tisei defended in his op-ed last week.
The bottom line is that is not fair to rob today's seniors or future generations of a secure retirement. I believe that it's just plain wrong. But that is what Mr. Tisei's plan does, and AARP, the Congressional Budget Office, the Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare, and editorial boards all across the country agree.
I want you to know that I will continue to fight hard to preserve Medicare, so that it can continue to provide quality care for seniors. My opponent wants to end this successful program and shift the burden to seniors, plain and simple.
Together, I know that we can continue to improve this critical program, so that seniors can have the peace of mind and security in retirement that they have earned.