That’s not the title of John Harwood’s NYT column today, but it might well have been. In a typical example of sloppy, one-sided Beltway thinking, Harwood opens with,
Soon enough, Democrats will have to identify new Medicare cuts they can support.
. . . and having swallowed whole that false Tea-GOP talking point, he explains why the Democrats must eventually not just cut federal spending on Medicare but do so by cutting benefits. His “logic” goes like this:
1. I understand that Medicare costs are rising because private health care costs are rising too fast for the whole country . . . but let’s forget that’s the real problem — implying a very different set of solutions aimed at the structure of health provision in America, not Medicare — and forget that ignoring it will still leave the economy, the nation and especially seniors in trouble. Instead let’s pretend the problem is too many old people and that the government can’t afford to provide them the same health care as they get today.
2. I understand that we pay providers — hospitals, doctors, drug makers, device makers — too much, but the Tea-GOP will oppose efforts to rein in those private costs — they only care about government spending — so we can’t fix that.
3. I understand that the Affordable Care Act contains an Advisory Board to identify and encourage ways to provide equal or better care at lower costs, but the Tea-GOP says that’s a “death panel,” so we can’t do that or expand its reach.
4. I understand that the ACA exempted hospitals from the Advisory Board for the first ten years [another WH deal], but since the Tea-GOP opposes the “death panel” Board anyway, we can’t fix that.
5. I understand that we’ve given special breaks to drug makers, exempting them from negotiations when the Bush-GOP passed the Medicare Part D drug benefit, but since the Tea-GOP opposes any government takeover, we can’t fix that.
6. I’m supposed to know, but neglected to mention, that Medicare provides care at lower costs than private systems, and the CBO just explained that moving to Paul Ryan’s voucher plan to pay private insurers will increase seniors’ health costs by about $34 trillion over 75 years, but that devastating and inconvenient fact just embarrasses the Tea-GOP, so let’s not mention it.
7. So that means we can only cut costs by reducing benefits. We can make seniors pay more for their doctors, “saving” [shifting] $240 billion, or we can make them wait until they’re 67 before getting benefits, saving [shifting] $124 billion, or we can just stop paying for some benefits they need and save [shift] even more. See? Saving [shifting] on Medicare is easy! We know non-Pod Democrats oppose this, and the American public strongly opposes and thinks this is morally wrong. But that’s what the Tea-GOP insists, so that’s what we Beltway grownups say we have to do.
8. The Tea-GOP won’t compromise on anything sensible, so it’s up to the Democrats and the White House to make all the concessions.
9. Everyone, including all of us adults, know this to be true.
10. Therefore, the Democrats are just stalling about cutting Medicare by hundreds of billions, but sooner or later, they’ll do what Mitch McConnell wants.
Now, John Harwood is a decent enough fellow, trying to be reasonable. An adult, as they say. But he’s just expressing the Beltway mindset in a nutshell. That leads me to two conclusions:
First, we need live cameras and reporters at Joe Biden’s place. Open up those discussions and let the American people watch the “adults” and listen as the Administration/Dems and Tea-GOP leaders, the Pods and the Zombies, explain their proposals and bargain away protections for senior citizens while they protect the wealthiest of the wealthy and the most destructive of the corporate looters and avoid facing the underlying cost problem.
Obama once said the health care reform debate should be televised. Good idea! We need more adult television. How about asking for that, John.
Second, America should have a party. Invite the austerity-suffering, enraged, courageous and unrepresented populations of Spain, Ireland, the UK, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and have them occupy Capital Mall and Lafayette Square until this stunningly irresponsible, unresponsive, undemocratic government resigns. We could phone in pizzas and watch on BBC or Al Jazeera.
Or we could just do it ourselves.