Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:41PM - 474 Views

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IN THE never-ending, nauseating effort of neo-conservatives to return us to the Gilded Age, where we can once again bask in the glory of slave wages and no protections from either pregnancy or banks, they dismiss Medicare as an "entitlement" with the underlying meaning of the word being "unearned."

They even want to raise the age at which you can get Medicare to 67, which is an injustice to American workers.

Sometimes I wonder if these people ever come out from behind the gates of their country clubs.

At a mere 57 years old, I can tell you that just getting an interview for a job is hard enough, let alone getting a job with health benefits, which is like winning the lottery.

In our own minds we might think that we are fit and spry, quick-witted and knowledgeable. But to a 30-year-old manager, I am an old man who is going to get sick and die any day now.

I wonder if U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice presidential choice, would be as cavalier about Medicare if he were my ripe age. Of course, Ryan, who seems like a decent guy, is a true believer in "supply-side economics," which means he isn't smart enough to realize that it doesn't work.

And like the Mittster, Ryan grew up very wealthy, his father making a fortune on government contracts, so he doesn't have much empathy for the average worker.

The "youngins" might not know of the gut-wrenching struggle it was to get Medicare passed into law in 1965.

President Harry Truman was the first to call for universal health care, saying that it would be morally and economically correct to provide health insurance for all in America. But Truman could not get a bill through what he called a "do-nothing" Congress. Sound familiar?

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected, the poverty rate among the elderly was an unbelievable 35.9 percent.

Kennedy proposed Medicare three separate times, and it lost in the U.S. Senate each time by fewer than five votes.

Medicare ended up passing in 1965, primarily in sympathy over Kennedy's death and the subsequent mastery of the Senate by his successor, President Lyndon Johnson. In early 1965, Johnson defined Medicare: "The Social Security health insurance plan, which President Kennedy worked so hard to enact, is the American way. It is practical. It is sensible. It is fair. It is just."

Ironically, the legacy of America's first Catholic president is the main target of the budget proposal of Paul Ryan, himself a Catholic, which would essentially privatize Medicare.

Of course, "Privatize" Ryan, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's remark about Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate, is "no Jack Kennedy."

The Romney campaign is trying to obfuscate the true nature of the Ryan budget plan, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program and create yet another lucrative market for the insurance cartel, by conjuring another blatant, shameless lie, that President Obama has "stolen" $716 billion from Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act.

I take my lead on Paul Ryan and his 19th century ideology from Sister Simone Campbell, leader of the recent "Nuns on the Bus" tour that protested Ryan's budget plan, calling it "immoral."

Noting that Ryan often cites his Catholic faith as a guiding light, Sister Campbell explains the part he is missing. "Paul Ryan talks a lot about the individual," she says. "His whole budget is about the individual and about shifting money to the top. While ‘individual responsibility' is certainly a part of being a good Catholic, she said, so is ‘being engaged in community,' which is the part Ryan misses."

In 1965 America had the character to wage a "War on Poverty" and provide health care for its senior citizens. Today, people such as Romney and Ryan seem determined to wage a war on the poor and let you worry about your own health care in your later years.

The Romney campaign is trying to obfuscate the true nature of the Ryan budget plan, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program and create yet another lucrative market for the insurance cartel …

John Watson is the former publisher of the Sunday Dispatch in Pittston. He lives in Seattle. Contact him via email at jwatson@timesleader.com.

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