The budget proposal floated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is getting kicked from pillar to post on Capitol Hill as always happens when someone commits a controversial subject to paper. He’s earned some criticism but also a bit of credit

While I’ll admit to not having read the whole thing, I’ve looked at parts that are getting the most attention: mostly expenditures affecting individuals, of which he included many. But defense spending I couldn’t find because he’s ignored the subject; proposed tax increases or elimination of some of the current exemptions which were not in my copy. It’s hard to discuss what isn’t there except to say that, before any real budget is laid on the table for serious discussion, cuts in defense will have to be included. Must be included. Tax exemptions and targeted increases, too.

The place where Ryan is taking the most well-deserved hits is in his plan for Medicare. Basically, he wants to increase age qualification by the year 2022- which needs to be done despite the AARP. Where he’s deviated from real life is to stop open-ended federal payments for medical procedures and create a direct government subsidy for seniors to buy health insurance. This assumes, of course, that any insurance company around will sell a policy to an 80-year-old guy who has had three heart attacks, got a kidney transplant in his 40’s and who is a cancer survivor. Surely some company will step forward. Yeah, you bet.

He would require insurers in a “Medicare Exchange” program for seniors to take all applicants with no cherry picking of only the healthiest. Take all comers. Except he’s put in some “trap doors” through which you could drive an insurer’s Hummer.

Ryan claims savings in Medicare spending of $285 billion yearly by 2030. I don’t know if he really means that in his heart because such numbers are contingent on all conditions staying pretty much constant. And they don’t.

Whether his figures hold up to scrutiny by impartial eyes is a matter for more qualified observers than me. Ryan, at this point, should get some credit for being the first politician to put hard numbers to paper and producing a document that covers a lot of budgetary ground. It will become hamburger in the grist mill of Congress and whatever budget is produced – whenever it’s produced – will likely look a lot different. But he’s started something.

As a fixed income senior – and a Medicare participant – talk of changing what personal experience tells me is a well-run program increases my heart beat. As we’ve aged in our household, it’s become a more important part of our lives. But the plain fact is it needs an administrative tuneup. It really hasn’t had one since the late ‘60’s when it started. Times – and we – have changed.

One important consideration should be “means testing.” That’s shorthand for adjusting the benefit to an individual’s income. If you make more like Warren Buffett and his billions, your Medicare buy-in should be higher – if at all. If you have less billions – like us – the buy-in should be lower – if any. If Ryan’s idea of having both the Buffett’s and the Rainey’s buy into a private Medicare insurance program with that buy-in adjusted for their respective incomes is adopted, that’s fine. “Them what has” don’t need as much federal help as “them what hasn’t.”

When Medicare was created 45 or so years ago, American’s were living just short of 70 on average. Now that average is in the 80’s. So maybe entry into Medicare slides up gradually until the year 2030. Month or so each year until then.

Whatever happens to Ryan’s stack of paperwork, he deserves some credit for creating it. Medicare has always been considered a sacred cow and politicians that messed with it in any way were pilloried by seniors and their representatives. We can’t afford to continue doing that. The program DOES need changes. Responsible changes. Done with a scalpel but not an axe!

There are many other budgetary land mines in the document. They’ll be found. And while the issue of reducing defense spending is not in there, it definitely must be. Taxes, too.

It’ll take those with serious minds some time to read the entirety of Ryan’s work to find all they’re looking for. But for the carpers and the simple-minded – of which we have far too many in Congress – the hip shooting has already begun.

There is no more important political issue in this country, at the moment, than the national debt and the interest thereon. From the Buffetts of the world to the homeless of the world, each of us is affected.

Congress has far too many shallow thinkers and ideologues who lack the ability to do what Ryan has done – much less understand it. His ideas – bad as some of them are – must be given a fair hearing. Theirs should not.

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