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Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls Jeb Bush comments on phasing out Medicare a ‘massive blunder’

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Democrats such as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz are seizing on comments that Jeb Bush made Wednesday night regarding Medicare.

Speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event in New Hampshire, Bush said brought up the government-run healthcare program for seniors by first blasting television ads back in 2012 featuring a Paul Ryan-look-a-like pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That ad was in reference to the Ryan budget that called for phasing Medicare out and instead make it into a voucher system.

“I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this,” Bush said. “They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits,” Bush said. “But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.”

“This is such a massive blunder on Jeb Bush’s part,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday afternoon on a conference call. “I was outraged, but not surprised, given what I know about Jeb Bush,” she added.

“Once again, Jeb Bush has shown he just doesn’t get it when it comes to the issues that matter to middle-class families and not surprisingly, to seniors,” Wasserman Schultz continued. “Maybe Jeb Bush can afford to get by without Medicare — I’m sure the Koch Brothers would be fine too — but millions of Americans count on Medicare when they retire for access to quality, affordable health care.”

Americans for Prosperity is a group funded by the Koch Brothers, a leading nemesis for Democrats nationwide.

Bush is by no means the only Republican who thinks Medicare is headed toward insolvency. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie have also talked about major Medicare reforms on the campaign trail. Democrats reject that theory, however, and are citing a Trustees report on the program released yesterday that shows that the system is fiscally secure through 2030.

“I’m sick and tired of Republicans who say that the only way to save Medicare is to destroy it,” Wasserman Schultz sneered.

“Jeb Bush just must be living in a Charles Dickens novel,” quipped Rich Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “His behavior over the last few months toward working people and retirees has been nothing short of outrageous, if not myopic.” Fiesta brought up another recent Bush comment that Democrats seized upon — his comment that Americans needed to work longer hours.

Democratic Party presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders also weighed in on the Bush comment.

“It is an indication of how far right-wing the Republican Party has become when its ‘moderate’ candidate, Jeb Bush, at a forum sponsored by the billionaire Koch brothers, is now talking about phasing out Medicare. This follows Bush’s statement that we should raise the retirement age for Social Security,” Sanders said.

All three Democrats referred to the fact that Bush’s statement comes just a week before the 50th anniversary of the creation of both Medicare and Medicaid, programs that went into effect on July 30, 1965.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that in a recent poll, by two-to-one margins, people of all political persuasions favor preserving Medicare in its current form, as opposed to replacing it with vouchers or other forms of premium support.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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