NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 17, 2012

Tierney and Tisei spar on Medicare

By Jesse Roman
Staff Writer

---- — BEVERLY — In a stump speech in Beverly yesterday, Congressman John Tierney tried to paint a clear contrast for voters between his Democratic views and those of Republican opponent Richard Tisei.

“Instead of lifting the middle (class) up and supporting opportunity and supporting people, (Republicans) want to go back to the unproven theory of trickle-down economics,” Tierney told a few dozen people at the Colonial Gardens Retirement Community in Beverly.

“Democrats want everyone to pay their fair share, to get rid of tax loopholes and spend on priorities like getting people back to work and on security for seniors. Republicans want to take care of people who are already well-off and hope someday we’ll all benefit from it. That’s radical. That has never worked.”

Tierney said the GOP’s strategy crystallized when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Ryan’s budget plan calls for cutting both spending and taxes and privatizing Medicare, among other provisions that rankle Democrats.

The Tierney camp has been eager to align Ryan and Tisei in an attempt to convince voters that his opponent is too far to the right.

“You always hear, ‘This is the most important election.’ But maybe it’s true this time,” Tierney said. “The Republicans have decided not to compromise; they want to win the whole ideological argument and bring things way to the right.

“My opponent got into the race because Paul Ryan went out and recruited him. He knows the Ryan budget well. He was handpicked to go down to Washington and get a private tutorial.”

Tisei, who denies that he was recruited by anyone, confirmed that he was one of 12 people invited to go to Washington to meet with Ryan and economists about the proposed budget. He has met with Democrats, too, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said.

“If Nancy Pelosi had a great idea to save Medicare, I would sit with her to talk about it, or any Democrat, not demonize them,” Tisei said. “Say what you want about Paul Ryan, at least he has the guts to put out his plan. Where’s John Tierney’s plan? Rather than demonize, maybe he should put out his own plan.”

Tisei has been portraying himself as an independent-minded legislator who would work with both parties to break the gridlock in Washington.

“The reason our country is on the brink of disaster is we have poor leadership. Everybody’s an ideologue, nobody works together,” Tisei said yesterday, pointing at Tierney as one of the worst offenders. “I am open-minded, and I’ll do what’s best for the country. I’ll think for myself, not vote in lockstep with Paul Ryan and the Republican leadership.”

Tisei, who has called the Ryan budget “a good starting point,” said he wants to simplify the tax code, lower taxes, and eliminate some loopholes and deductibles. He said he would “look at every single proposal on the table” when it comes to Medicare — the government-run health insurance for people over 65 — to prevent it from going bankrupt.

Tierney, however, noted that the Ryan plan would replace Medicare with a voucher system, giving future generations of seniors a voucher to help them pay for private health insurance. The problem, he said, is the voucher wouldn’t cover the cost, and out-of-pocket expenses for seniors would grow dramatically over time.

“Do we need to save money with the current program? Absolutely,” said Tierney, who added that a lot was done to shed costs in the Affordable Care Act, now known as Obamacare. “Every year, we need to look at ways to keep costs down as much as possible.”

Tisei said he is after a more long-term solution to make the program fiscally stable.

“I would not vote for a Band-Aid, but something that fixes the system for the next generation,” he said. “John Tierney wants to kick the can down the road instead of being honest with people and addressing the problem.”

The race between Tierney, an eight-term incumbent, and Tisei, a former state senator from Wakefield, has been the nastiest and closest Congressional race in the state.

If the election is about ideology, Tierney said he will win.

“We want to deal with everyone in a fair way — no special tax breaks for people who earn a lot,” said Tierney, adding that the government would save $1 trillion over the next decade if the rich “paid the same tax rate they paid under (President) Clinton.”

Tisei disagrees. Tax-and-spend does not work, he said, and voters will agree.

“The country is about to go bankrupt. Forty cents of every dollar we spend we have to borrow just to cover our operating expenses,” Tisei said. “John Tierney’s philosophy is spend more money and tax more, and it is leading our country off a cliff.”