With Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan now saddled up to ride shotgun as Mitt Romney's GOP running mate, the Democratic Party flak already is coming fast and heavy.
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee email fundraiser bluntly sounds the Democrats' alarm: "Romney and Paul Ryan are dead set on slashing senior's Medicare benefits to pay for more millionaire tax breaks..."
Here in the Memphis area, Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Justin Joy is ever ready with his comeback.
"That's just not accurate," counters Joy, referring to how Democrats are framing the Medicare debate.
"There is a real difference and that is in the fact that Romney's plans were created for people within his own state, while Obamacare has to address the issue on a national scale. It is a fact that Medicare must be repaired if we are going to preserve it for future generations. I think Paul Ryan is a great selection as V.P."
According to present budget projections, Medicare is on track to become bankrupt by 2024. Still, Joy has some heavy lifting in his future if he is to get 40-year GOP member Vivian Berryhill to see the divisive Medicare issue as he does. "Junk," she says of both parties' Medicare plans.
"We all know Medicare is going broke, but their proposals are really first cousins," said Berryhill, founder and president of the National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses (NCPS).
"The president wants to take out $700 billion and transfer it out of the program into Obamacare. Ryan's proposal is to take out $500 billion to $700 billion out of the program with the intent of balancing the budget. We need to cut entitlements but not in a way that will hurt the middle class, seniors and poor people," said Berryhill, who recently used The New Tri-State Defender's Op-Ed page to voice the Pastors Spouses' plea for Medicare program protection.
"But the real problem with it is that the senators and congressmen are exempt from Obamacare. They won't be affected by any of this in anyway, so forget them," said Berryhill.
"Why would you have people that are not going to be affected making decisions? We need to take it out of their hands, create a national citizens roundtable and take the direction from the citizens because they know what will work in their individual households."
Weeks before the Paul-Ryan factor became a heightened element in the presidential election, one direct-from- the-people approach regarding Medicare and Social Security already was underway and had surfaced in the Memphis area.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) initiated its "You've Earned A Say" tour to talk with those concerned about the state of Medicare and Social Security and to hear what they think should be done for the future. The tour is designed to empower people "...with unbiased, straightforward and accurate information about proposed changes – without all the political jargon and spin."
In Memphis, a tour stop was held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on June 29. About 200 pre-registered, with about 180 showing up. Andrea M. Neely, AARP's Tennessee Multicultural Outreach Director, organized the Memphis-area gathering, saying afterwards that the "level of energy" was exactly what she wanted.
"We want to ensure the solvency of Medicare and maintain its promise of secure, stable health care coverage for those who've spent most of their lives paying into this system," Neely said on Wednesday.
"Older Americans already are struggling to pay costs not covered by Medicare. They should not have to carry an additional burden."
According to AARP, Tennessee has 831,000 Medicare users and more "You've Earned A Say" sessions are planned to hear from them.
(This story includes a report from the TSD's iTeen Reporter, Asia Jones.)