After hitting his Republican opponents for failing to help farmers and plans to cut the wind energy tax credit, President Barack Obama on Wednesday turned his sights to Medicare.
Obama's remarks early Wednesday afternoon in Dubuque, Iowa focused on how the administration's reforms will strengthen and protect the program that provides health insurance for the elderly.
Many political observers expect the debate about Medicare to become a central element of the campaign following presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate.
Ryan is the author of a House budget that proposes radically altering the nature of Medicare for those not already receiving benefits or near retirement age, shifting it from a plan that guarantees medical coverage to one that offers seniors a fixed credit with which to purchase private insurance.
Democrats and many critics of the Ryan plan have said that the "voucher system" the Wisconsin Republican put forward as chairman of the House Budget Committee, would unfairly shift the rising costs of care to the elderly and essentially end the government guarantee for older Americans.
After repeating his criticism of Romney's tax plan, which Obama said amounted to "trickle-down snake oil," Obama went on to say Romney and Ryan have been "pretty dishonest" in their attempts to attack his plans for Medicare.
"Here's what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare," Obama said. "I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs."
He added, "I have proposed reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system -- reforms that will not touch your Medicare benefits -- not by a dime."
Obama said that Romney and Ryan have a very different vision for the future of Medicare, using the familiar Democratic language by labeling it a voucher system.
"That means seniors would no longer have the guarantee of Medicare -- they'd get a voucher to buy private insurance," he said. "And because the voucher wouldn't keep up with costs, the plan authored by Governor Romney's running mate, Congressman Ryan, would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year."
Obama added: "Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires."
Obama said that the differences between the two camps on Medicare were just an example of the fundamentally different visions for the future of the nation held by the two sides.
"On just about every issue, Governor Romney and I just have a different opinion," he said. "When the auto industry was on the brink of collapse, more than a million jobs at stake, Governor Romney said let's 'let Detroit go bankrupt.' I said let's bet on American workers."
He added, "We got workers and management together, and they changed how they were doing business. And three years later, the American auto industry is back on top."
Obama also chided Romney and Ryan for proposing cuts to education and calling for the repeal of Obama's signature health care reform initiative.
"On all these issues -- health care, manufacturing, education -- all these things that go into creating a solid, secure middle-class life, all these issues tie together," Obama said. "That's what's at stake in this election. Do we affirm those values and pass them on to our kids and our grandkids just like we got them from our parents and our grandparents?"
He added, "If you are still ready to go like I am, I promise you we will win Iowa. We will win this election. We will finish what we started. And you and I together will remind the world why America is the greatest nation on Earth."
The campaign also rolled out a new Web video Wednesday morning hitting the Republicans with the same line of attack, accusing Romney and Ryan of using "bogus" and false attacks on Obama's plan to "hide" their plan to "end Medicare."
The campaign said in a written statement that Ryan and Romney were both attempting to attack Obama for making cuts to Medicare that are also included in Ryan's budget and asked what other long-held plans that Ryan might also be willing to renounce - from the Medicare plan to cutting funds for the Medicaid insurance for the poor and children.
"Of course, it's not so simple for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan - they can't just walk away from the Romney-Ryan Budget," the campaign release said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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