'Mediscare' and the Pennsylvania Senate Race

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Back in August, Cato adjunct scholar Veronique de Rugy expressed concern about Republican campaign rhetoric on Medicare. As Republicans tell it, they want to “protect” and “strengthen” Medicare, whereas President Obama wants to “cut” and “weaken” it. Veronique thinks that the GOP’s “Mediscare” campaign could end up backfiring by making it harder to reform Medicare if Republicans succeed in taking control of Washington.

What I find irritating is that for all the standard platitudes from Republicans about getting federal spending under control, they’re simultaneously attacking Democrats for allegedly wanting to cut the budget’s big-ticket items like Medicare and military spending. Democrats might deserve it for decades of trying to scare the pants off of seniors, but the GOP’s adoption of their tactics is evidence in support of the view that the parties merely represent two sides of the same coin. (Don’t forget the last big expansion of entitlements came from the Republican-engineered addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare in 2004.)

That brings me to the Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate , where Republican challenger Tom Smith is trying to unseat Democrat Bob Casey. Smith is apparently in striking distance after months of running television ads attacking Casey. However, one particular ad being run by the Smith campaign is a good example of how low Republicans have sunk when it comes to Mediscaring:

At the end of the ad we see Smith sitting with his elderly mother. Smith says, “In the Senate I’ll protect Social Security and Medicare. After all, my own mother receives those benefits and this son would never jeopardize that.” He then turns to his mom, puts his arm on her shoulder, and asks, “Right, mom?” “Right” she replies.

Ugh.

Note to partisan readers: my criticism of the Smith ad does not mean that I support Bob Casey or believe that Casey would be a better senator.