Democrats have seized on Jeb Bush’s comments about a Medicare “phase out."
All day Democratic groups have tried to call attention to Bush’s remark, made Wednesday night at an Americans for Prosperity event in New Hampshire.
Other Republicans have talked of altering or getting rid of Medicare, but Bush’s prominence in the presidential race makes him a high profile target. Lost in the Democratic attacks is that Bush quickly said that the system would need to be replaced with something else because "they're not going to have anything."
"Last night Jeb Bush said publicly that he wants to ‘phase out Medicare, a program that literally keeps old people from dying. Wow. At least he’s being honest,” said Erica Payne, the creator of the “Granny Off the Cliff” ad and president of the liberal Agenda Project Action Fund.
A woman asked Bush about it today and the exchange is below:
WOMAN: Why are you always attacking the seniors?
BUSH: Well, I’m not. That’s just. Here’s what I said: I said that we’re going to have to reform our entitlement system. We have to.
WOMAN: It’s not an entitlement. I earned it. I paid into it. It’s not an entitlement.
BUSH: It’s an actuarially unsound health care system. It’s actuarially unsound. 50 trillion dollars of debt has been accrued and if we do nothing, that’s the burden that we’re going to place on your children and grandchildren that you’re concerned about and so am I. That’s a fact. Social security is an underfunded retirement system. People have put money into it for sure, and the people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that. But your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefits that they believe they’re going to get or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money that the system costs is wrong.
BUSH: So to my point last night, here’s what I said. I said first and foremost whenever you get into a conversation about reforming entitlement the first thing you can be guaranteed of is that the left will attack you and demonize you. It took about six hours for that to happen. I woke up in the morning and words taken out of context, exactly what I predicted would happen. I told them the story of Paul Ryan who had a plan to deal with this over the long haul. The first thing I saw that happened to him was a guy looking like Paul Ryan was in a TV ad attacking him wearing a red tie and a suit throwing granny off the cliff. This is—we’ve got to get beyond this because this is not a sustainable system. We need to protect it for people that have it and we need to make sure that we reform it for people that are expecting it. As a great country we need to make sure that there’s adequate access to healthcare. So there are solutions to this. There are solutions and one of the solutions I think you probably supported, which is to look at lifting the cap. There are other solutions related to the fact that we’re working longer now. Maybe we do something as it relates to the retirement age just as being done in Social Security. So there are solutions. We can’t just say everything is great and wait until the very end when we end up with a catastrophe that we can’t overwhelm. The power of compounding will be our enemy if we don’t fix this. I think we need to start figuring out how you create a bipartisan consensus to fix this. The final thing I’ll say is—this morning you saw Morning Joe, I’m not sure how they took what I said out of context, that’s the life I live—that’s fine. In the morning the Medicare Trustees, a bipartisan group—nonpartisan, bipartisan group said that in their Medicare report that the looming crisis is serious and getting worse. This is from a group that isn’t political. Read the report. Don’t read the whole report unless you’re crazy, it’s 150 pages. But the report, the summary of the report, points out that we have this actuarial deficit as far as the eye can see and anyone under the age of 40 ought to be really concerned about that. I appreciate you asking the question.
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times