The problem with so many GOP presidential candidates in low single-digits is that occasionally one of them crawls out of the muck when America forgets why they were down there in the first place. I wonder how long Ben Carson will be leading in Iowa when the elderly FOX News crowd gets wind of the fact he wants to abolish their Medicare.
Carson, who now leads the GOP field in Iowa according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, would eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions. While rivals have been pummeled for proposing less radical changes, Carson hasn’t faced the same scrutiny — and his continued traction in polls has left GOP strategists and conservative health care wonks scratching their heads.
“This isn’t a borderline issue. The politics of this are horrific,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, head of the American Action Forum and health care adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Carson’s stance on the third-rail issue of Medicare is especially risky given his strength among elderly voters. In Iowa, Carson draws a quarter of the senior vote — more than double any other candidate except Donald Trump, with whom he’s statistically tied among seniors. Carson’s support is even higher among voters between the ages of 55 and 64, who are on the verge of Medicare eligibility. He draws 34 percent of that age group, double Trump’s level of support, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
Carson’s GOP rivals are largely holding their fire so far. Trump’s campaign declined to comment, as did the campaigns of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal noted the Louisiana governor’s support for reforming — but preserving — Medicare and Medicaid.
“Without change, they will go bankrupt,” said the spokeswoman, Shannon Dirmann. “Abolishing them is bad policy.”
The answer of course is a combination of our Village betters have been letting Carson get away with it, and that nobody took him seriously enough to read the fine print. Carson doesn’t call it Medicare or Medicaid, he calls it “traditional health care”. He’s had this plan for more than a year now, but he’s gotten very, very good at selling it while not talking about it.
Now that he’s a threat in the GOP race to possibly win something maybe, the Village has suddenly re-discovered his plan to replace Medicare and Medicaid with medical savings accounts that wouldn’t cover the cost of more than one lifetime hospital visit and wouldn’t keep up with medical cost inflation.
We’ll see how much traction this gets, but I’m betting it’s not going to hurt him as much as people think. He’s had this position for over a year now, folks. Hasn’t hurt him so far. It’s been a stated position that he’s confirmed again and again and people just stopped asking him about it, which means of course the low-info sub-genius crowd had no chance of knowing.
Granted, in a world where journalism wasn’t run by the Chuck Todd/Jake Tapper/Luke Russert crowd, Carson’s actual policy positions would be irrelevant, because his toxic Islamophobia and astonishing lack of knowledge would have him laughed off the national stage in minutes, but for some reason, he’s still there and millions of people want him to be our next president.
And if it’s because “people didn’t know about Carson” then maybe we should ask why that is.