Vice President Joe Biden today delivered a dramatic election-year warning to America's seniors: Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and GOP budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan want to "dismantle" Medicare, and will do whatever they can to mislead on how their plan will affect you.
"Gov. Romney supports 'cut, cap and balance' and - which is yet another demonstration that there is no daylight between Gov. Romney and Republican leaders on the most important issues facing this country," Biden said, tweaking the Republican budget plan in a campaign speech to retirees in Coconut Creek, Fla. "And not even Romney's Etch A Sketch can change that."
Biden's folksy 30-minute address, the second of four he's planned to lay out what Democrats believe are the defining issues of the 2012 campaign, sought to tap into the widespread unpopularity of Ryan's first GOP budget, which includes deep spending cuts, controversial changes to Medicare and cuts in income tax rates.
He said the new Ryan proposal unveiled this week offers the same pain for the middle class, but would be sold to the public using new "poll-tested language" meant to boost its appeal.
"You may remember the first Ryan budget. Nothing subtle about it. It dismantled Medicare. Within 10 years it was a voucher system. It dismantled the system and meant that the average senior would be paying another $6,000 out of pocket for the Medicare benefits they now receive," he said.
"What's changed? What's the difference? Well, it's the way they talked about it. Literally the way they talked about it," he said, citing a Politico report detailing how Ryan has plotted to pitch his plan.
"At the end of the day - we're all old enough, we've been around enough to know - that it's not just what you hear, it's not just what you see, what you feel, what you taste, what your heart tells you," Biden warned. "What your heart tells you about whether or not someone speaking to you means what they say."
While the vice president did not detail the administration's own plan to overhaul Medicare or address long-term concerns about the Social Security trust fund, he claimed credit for keeping Medicare viable until 2025, thanks to projected savings under the Affordable Care Act from reduced "waste, fraud and abuse."
And he said Republicans' proposals to "cut, cap and balance" the federal budget through changes to entitlements sacrificed the well-being of middle-class Americans in favor of wealthier ones.
"This is not your father's Republican party - so they can preserve a new trillion-dollar tax cut - a new trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. That is not hyperbole, folks," he said.
"Folks, it's simple math. Either you preserve Medicare and fix Social Security, and draw down the deficit, or you spend another trillion dollars on tax cuts for the wealthy. You can't do both," Biden said. "And we refuse, we refuse to shift the burden and responsibility of putting America's fiscal house in order on the backs of those who will have to change their standard of living, who have worked hard all their life, and have earned the retirement benefits they're getting."
A Republican aide at the House Budget Committee responded to Biden's rebuke by defending the Ryan plan as beneficial to seniors.
"Our plan gives power to 50 million seniors, forcing providers to compete against each for the patient's business, ensuring Medicare can deliver on its promise for generations to come," the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told ABC News.
"Because the President would rather not talk about his health care overhaul, lacks a credible plan to strengthen Medicare, and is offering no solutions to prevent the most predictable economic crisis in American history, the President seems intent on trying to scare seniors and distort our solutions. It won't work. Americans are smarter than this Administration thinks."