Thompson Stumps for Cuts To Entitlement Programs
Presidential candidate and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) during his campaign has discussed the need to reduce the cost of entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, but some political analysts have raised concerns about the strategy, the New York Times reports.
Experts agree that entitlement programs currently lack long-term sustainability and that lawmakers in the near future will have to consider whether to require workers to pay more to finance the programs, reduce benefits or increase the age of eligibility to address the issue.
According to the Times, Thompson "has been characteristically vague when it comes to detailing a strategy to combat the looming crisis," although he recently said that he would have opposed the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Political analysts and others have said that "Thompson's focus on issues like entitlements and spending could be risky and, if discussed honestly and in-depth, carries the potential of alienating large segments of the population: the elderly who benefit from such programs and the workers whose payroll taxes may be increased to support baby boomers in their retirement," the Times reports.
Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, said, "It's a treacherous track on the entitlement question," adding, "Voters tend to gravitate toward the free-lunch rhetoric and believe the unbelievable."
David Gergen, a professor of public service at Harvard University and an adviser to several former presidents, said, "The dilemma candidates now face is that if you tell the truth about the hard choices and where you stand, you might not get elected," adding, "But if you don't tell the truth and manage to win, you can't govern" (Saulney, New York Times, 9/15).