THE THIRD RAIL OF U.S. POLITICS

As Newt Gingrich tries to buzz saw more than $1 trillion out of federal budgets in the next seven years, Republicans are pressed to go where the money is. And there's big money in Medicare. Last year it weighed in at $162.5 billion and is expected to grow to $286 billion by the year 2000. However, previous attempts to tinker with the health insurance enjoyed by 36.3 million aging voters have earned Medicare the title of ``the third rail of American politics.'' Touch it and you're dead.

It is a tantalizing--but daunting--target. According to recent estimates, the Republicans can achieve...

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