Federal budget battle is a clash of two eras 

Senate Democrats led by Patty Murray of Washington and Chuck Schumer of New York have an odd way of looking at things. Murray is the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and Schumer is among the party’s messaging gurus.

According to The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, a source familiar with the two senators’ thinking on the stalled budget-deal talks said they fear President Barack Obama will give away Democrats’ advantage on Medicare. Obama would do so, the source claims Murray and Schumer believe, by agreeing to Medicare reforms in return for Republicans accepting tax hikes.

“We shouldn’t be giving away our advantage on Medicare,” the source said. “We should be very careful about giving away the biggest advantage we’ve had as Democrats in some time.”

In other words, they want entitlement programs such as Medicare to be off-limits to spending cuts — period.

If such reasoning strikes you as odd, it should; the Medicare-cuts horse left the barn more than a year ago. It was none other than Obama and the Democrats who controlled Congress who swung the barn door wide open with $500 billion in spending cuts to Medicare Advantage, massive cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and big Medicare payroll tax hikes to fund Obamacare.

Democrats who think poll figures showing them with a clear advantage now over Republicans on Medicare make a huge mistake by assuming most voters won’t wise up to what Obamacare did to Medicare by the time the 2012 election rolls around.

The likely source of such fractured-fairy-tale logic is the liberal article of faith since the New Deal — that once federal entitlement programs are established, their popularity among middle-class voters makes them immune from financial and political realities. And they were right, at least as long as there were enough Peters around to tax to pay for Paul’s Medicare (plus his Social Security, food stamps, college loans, mortgage subsidies, prescription drugs, clean-energy projects, bridges to nowhere, ACORN grants and so on).

But now that the welfare state’s bills are coming due and exploding federal entitlements are at the heart of the government’s spending and debt crises, most Americans realize reasonable reforms can no longer be put off; the tough decisions must be made now.

That’s why House Speaker John Boehner was right to reject Obama’s proposal to hike taxes by $1 trillion now in return for spending reforms tomorrow. This is the classic promise of the addicted: Give me a fix today and I will go into rehab tomorrow.

Were it the happy days of the New Deal coalition again, such an offer might work. But in the 21st century, Americans see Europeans viciously rioting in the streets protesting cuts in their government benefits and know that the hour is not too late for this country to avoid a similar fate. But to avoid Europe’s agony, Washington, D.C.’s spending addiction must be broken, and that means no tax hikes — period.

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