(Sidebar bit of context: I voted for Mike to run against Scott Brown for the senate race when Ted Kennedy died. Had Mike won the Democratic primary rather than Martha Coakley, I’m convinced that the Commonwealth’s Senate delegation would still be 100% Democratic.)
Dear Congressman Capuano,
I see that Rep. Ryan is proposing to privatize Medicare. And I see that the GOP is trying to scare everyone into thinking that Social Security’s funding problems can only be addressed by cutting benefits for the middle class, even though the CBO says otherwise.
I have two questions about this. __First__, can you help me understand why the Democratic Party hasn’t taken hold of the narrative here? There’s a lot in the news about Social Security’s peril, but nothing about how the whole problem could be solved by eliminating the payroll-tax cap.
__Second__, and maybe more importantly: why can’t the Democrats take the fight to the Republicans? We shouldn’t be the party of fighting rearguard actions to prevent the dismantling of the social safety net; unfortunately, that’s most of what people have known us for over the last decade, at least, with the notable and terrific exception of the Affordable Care Act. (Here’s hoping it gets implemented.) Under President Bush, we were known as the party that fought successfully against privatizing Social Security. I’m glad we pulled that off, but why couldn’t we have taken the fight to them? Not only will Social Security not be dismantled, but it will be *strengthened*, so that it provides the sort of retirement that we need, and functions as a real pension for those of modest to average means? In the wake of Enron, everyone was aware — or could have been made aware through the use of that one vivid example — that 401(k)s are no substitute for a real defined-benefit retirement plan.
As for Medicare and Medicaid: we have all the facts on our side; why can’t we fight? Why can’t we bring Medicare to everyone, not just the aged (and some exceptions like those with end-stage renal disease)? Why can’t we show the American people that Medicare’s rate of cost growth is lower than that of private health care? Why must we settle for *not letting the Republicans destroy it?*
A robust Democratic party — the party I want to belong to — would fight these fights, not only because they’re just, but also because we have the facts on our side. And the story doesn’t seem hard to sell. During the fight over the Affordable Care Act, many were concerned that the elderly would fight the bill because they thought it would mean gutting their Medicare. So wouldn’t the simplest bill, with the most easily understood PR, have been one that simply extended Medicare to those under 65? This bill would have had the virtue of being *the best* bill, as well.
To some extent I know I’m preaching to the choir, both because you’re a very progressive representative and because the Senate is the problem more than the House; the Senate seems to be where progressive legislation goes to die. If the Senate is the problem, and the public decisively wants a stronger safety net (and I’d be *shocked* if, when asked whether Medicare ought to be extended to all Americans regardless of age or income, Americans said no), I want the Democrats out there every day saying that the Senate is standing in the way of the people’s will. I want “procedural reform” on everyone’s lips.
In short, I want some fight in my party. And unless this is a case of media misrepresentation, I just don’t see that fight.
Having now laid out a largely negative case, I need to explain that beneath it all is a very positive question: what do I, as a resident of the nation’s most reliably blue state, do to fight for a Democratic party that’s worth fighting for?