Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan last week declared economic war on anyone born after Jan. 1, 1957.

Ryan, a Janesville Republican, has proposed sweeping changes to Medicare. He would replace the existing government-run, single-payer program with a voucher he calls “premium support” beginning in 2021. However, Ryan would continue the existing program for anyone born before 1957. Bottom line: Younger people will spend the rest of their lives paying taxes for a generous form of socialized medicine they’ll never get.

Ryan’s plan exposes two contradictions. First, Ryan and the Republicans claim the federal government faces a catastrophic debt, but his plan doesn’t save the first dollar on Medicare until 2021, and the real savings won’t materialize until several years of voucher recipients work their way through the system. Meanwhile, payments from traditional Medicare would linger well into the 2050s.

Second, delayed implementation is a tacit admission that Ryan’s vouchers are a rotten deal. People born after 1956 would get a private insurance voucher that’s indexed to gradually erode in value. The Congressional Budget Office estimates annual out-of-pocket costs would more than double — from $6,150 to $12,500, and it’s a gap that would grow over time.

If Ryan and the Republicans actually believe vouchers can save money without leaving senior citizens destitute, they have an obligation to implement the entire program sooner rather than later (Jan. 1, 2014, is a fair startup date) for everyone 65 and over. If not, they have an obligation to stop sugar-coating Ryan’s vouchers with terms like “choice” and admit that Medicare will be a much worse deal for those unlucky to have missed the cutoff.

It’s bad enough that politicians divide us by region (“Real America”), religion and sexual preference, etc. Now Ryan wants to divide Americans by the date they were born. There are worse things than adding to the national debt, and Paul Ryan’s act of generational warfare is one of them.

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