In an effort to recapture the attention and enthusiasm of Republicans, Gov. Christie today in a speech in New Hampshire proposed substantial changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. What he calls “entitlement reform” may appear as bold and appealing to conservative primary voters, but the plan is cynical, crafty, unnecessary and contrary to what is needed. It may stimulate discussion, it may backfire on him, or as a third-tier candidate it may not survive many news cycles, but it’s not a sensible plan.
Christie’s plan is cynical as it disregards the needs of less wealthy ageing Americans who would have to wait longer for Social Security and Medicare. Daniel Kurz, who has blogged on Blue Jersey, expresses his outrage on Facebook: “I guess people in their 60’s never get seriously ill in large numbers and can, for the most part, continue to sell their physical labor and compete with 26 year olds. The message from the NJ governor is clear: if you’re 67, and you’re chronically unemployed, and you have been paying into Social Security for four decades, then do us all a favor and drop dead.”
Christie’s plan is crafty because it has no immediate impact, delays the start date and is implemented gradually. Even Tea Party, Evangelical, and fiscally conservative Republicans are on these plans or hope to be. It starts raising the retirement age to 69 (from 67) in 2022 and then only by two months each year until it reaches 69 in 2044. For Medicare it raises eligibility age at a pace of one month per year, so that by 2064 it would be 69. As Christie explains, “The changes I propose today would not affect seniors currently in these programs or seniors approaching retirement, so let me repeat that, before they start running these pushing granny in the wheel chair off the cliff ads.” He got a few laughs from this ugly remark, and maybe a few sighs of relief.