The heart of what we believe

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
If the AARP convention last week was any indication, some seniors aren't buying what Paul Ryan is selling. The question is, are you?

Those watching the video of vice presidential nominee Ryan can hear the murmuring of discontent when he utters the line, “Seniors are threatened by Obamacare, a law that would force steep cuts to real benefits in real time to real people.” But he gets applause at talking about reforming Medicare so that “we can protect it for those near retirement today.”

The loud jeers, however, start when he follows up by saying, "The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare, because it represents the worst of both worlds.”

I don't cotton to booing — I figure if you're going to show up to hear someone speak, you can at least hear him out. And it's worth noting that the Wall Street Journal said Ryan “went into the heart of the entitlement culture, told some hard truths, and even won applause for doing so.”

Of course, that editorial also notes that, “Everyone knows that Medicare spending can't continue on its current course.”

The fallacy there is that what you know and what you believe are not synonymous. There are plenty of seniors who believe that Medicare should stay just as it is, and “know” that's a sustainable practice. There are plenty of people who “know” that Obama' birth certificate is forged, and that he's part of some giant conspiracy, probably aimed at seniors. Also, that the world is going to end on Dec. 21, 2012, at which point much of this discussion would be moot.

The real question in this election is not what you know, but what you believe.

It's not a question of who is right, or who is wrong: it's a question of what you fundamentally believe is the role of government, what you want for the country and what you want for your business and your life. Mitt Romney represents a fundamental Republican idea that home, community, church and a good job provide enough to be successful in America. A strong part of his speech at the Republican national convention was when he said, “The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, our faith. … It's that good feeling when you have more time to volunteer to coach your kid's soccer team, or help out on school trips.”

That's a positive view of America – it's the idea that all culinary departments at your nursing home will recycle aluminum to help out their local animal shelter. It's the idea that no seniors are left behind because a community will take care of them. It's the idea that if you get government out of our way, we'll be better off.

The flip side, of course, is arguably darker: it's the idea that programs like Medicaid are a part of a safety net for vulnerable Americans and that government. It's the idea that government is needed to help those around you in need because home, community and work won't be enough.

For all the emotion and the gaffes and the polls, it's easy to start imagining we know what is in voters' heads. No one knows. The best you can do, in my opinion, is that when you walk into a voting booth, you look inside your own head, and heart, and stay true to your beliefs.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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