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GOP Senators Propose to End Medicare in 2014, Replace with Private Individual Mandate

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The GOP has a proposal to end Medicare

The stupid[est] wing of the already crazy Republican Party, composed in the Senate of people like Rand Paul (Ill), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and others, has predictably come up with this cycle’s most expensive, dishonest, unfair and politically suicidal proposal to end and replace Medicare.

I don’t mean just “end Medicare as we know it,” so pay attention, Politifact.   They mean to flat out kill it, stone cold dead, starting in 2014.   And the craziest part of their proposal is they want to replace it with . . . an individual mandate forcing all Seniors to purchase private health insurance, with government subsidies that become less sufficient over time while health care costs rise.

I can hardly wait for the GOP leadership and Presidential candidates, not to mention President Obama and the Democrats, to figure out how to attack this.

From The Hill:

The “Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act” would allow seniors to choose from the array of plans currently offered to the four million federal employees and their dependents in the Federal Employee Health Benefit program, starting in 2014. It would also gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70 over a 20-year period.

The bill was introduced Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are co-sponsors, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

How did Sen. Lindsey Graham get in on this?  Why, he’s there to lend gravitas and to set the record for most misrepresentations packed into a single statement:

“Our goal is to [1]save Medicare from bankruptcy and ensure seniors have [2] affordable, [3]high-quality health care — a crisis President Obama has [4]only made worse during his time in office,” Graham said. “Allowing seniors access to the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) program, which members of Congress and federal employees use, will give them [5]more choices and [6]lower their out-of-pocket costs.”

Each of the items marked [ ] is essentially false or misleading, so Lindsey gets six points for dishonesty in just two sentences.   But never mind that.  Think about what they’re proposing and compare that to the structure of the Affordable Care Act.

In essence, every Senior would be required to purchase private health insurance from a list of policies defined and approved by the government, and if they can find the choices on a web page then  . . .voila!  we have an exchange!   The individual mandate would apply to everyone at age 65 (moving to 70 in a few years).  The government wouldn’t ensure you can afford necessary and sufficient health care; it would merely cover, for now, an average of 75% of your premiums for whatever the policy covers.   So as health care costs rose, so would your contributions to the premiums and non-covered care.  And how would anyone control costs?  They wouldn’t, because the Advisory Board set up in the ACA to ferret out lower costs and other means to control provider payments would be gone.  You’re on your own in a dysfunctional market.

But you wouldn’t know this from the talking points the GOP Senators used:

According to a synopsis from Paul’s office, the bill would:

• slash the deficit by $1 trillion over the first 10 years and reduce Medicare’s 75-year unfunded obligation by almost $16 trillion;

• offer seniors “richer benefits, higher quality health care, and better access to doctors and providers” while cutting their premiums to $1,900 per year — less than the $3,500 seniors currently pay for Medicare benefits and supplemental insurance, or Medigap;

• charge seniors the same premium regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions;

Translation: Since there’s no mechanism by which the proposal could reduce actual health care costs, a $1 trillion reduction in deficits over 10 years means that the proposal shifts $1 trillion actual costs to seniors.   That also means that the claimed cut in premiums is a shell game.  You can’t reduce total premiums while shifting a $1 trillion in costs, let alone $16 trillion.  And the rule that insurers cover all comers regardless of health and pre-existing conditions is a clue we’re dealing with the same mandatory purchase model embedded in the ACA.

The WaPo’s Dana Milbanks captures the wonderful irony:

At Thursday’s news conference, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times pointed out that the lawmakers were proposing to do with Medicare almost exactly what President Obama’s reforms do for non-retirees: Direct them into private insurance with a subsidy for those who need it most.

Paul was flummoxed. “Uh, anybody want to comment on that?” he asked, producing laughter in the Senate TV studio.

Yes, the clowns are always hilarious, as long as no one takes them seriously.  But this isn’t the circus and these people are Senators. It won’t take much more craziness for the clowns to be in charge of running the place, as they already do in the GOP-controlled House and the GOP side of the Senate.

So once again, Obama/Democrats, how are you going to explain why this is nuts?   Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

GOP Debate Candidates Can’t Answer Fla. Woman Who Asks for Health Insurance

8:31 pm in Politics, Republican party by Scarecrow

Don't ask Mitt how to solve Florida's uninsured problems (photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

During Thursday night’s GOP debate, a woman from Florida told the candidates she’d lost her job and with it her health insurance.  What would each of the candidates do to get her covered or otherwise provide the health care she needed?

You had to listen carefully, but the effective answer they all gave her was, “this is your problem, not ours.”

Let’s first recall that this woman is not alone.  Millions of Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance.  That was happening before the recession but has become much worse during the recession.  That may be because they lost their jobs and can’t afford COBRA coverage, and the government’s stimulus subsidies for COBRA have expired, or because, even if they still have jobs, their employer stopped providing coverage because of its rising costs.  Or they may have lost effective coverage, because even if they have a job, their employer-provided coverage is so weak or so costly with deductibles, exclusions, and co-pays that they’ve effectively lost affordable, meaningful coverage. In the meantime, those on the individual “markets,” which are dominated by highly concentrated oligopolies, are confronted with insurance premiums they simply cannot afford.

As FDL’s Jon Walker has noted, America now has the highest percentage of uninsured in decades, and that’s not going to change unless/until the Affordable Care Act kicks in by subsidizing private insurance and providing millions with access to expanded Medicaid. So unlike many of the debate topics, this woman’s question was extremely relevant to literally tens of millions of Americans.

The answers she/we heard cannot have been reassuring.  Mitt Romeny said he’d adopt policies that would lead to her getting a new job.  Okay, maybe that happens in a couple years or so, or maybe not.  But even when, pre-recession, we had much lower unemployment, we still had tens of millions of people without insurance, and those who thought they had insurance were often ambushed by insurance company rescissions, exclusions, denials and then refusals to re-insure those with pre-existing conditions.  Millions of people faced these problem before the ACA and before the recession.

Moreover, if these Republicans were successful in repealing the ACA and block-granting Medicaid, as the GOP-Ryan Plan they all eventually suppported provides, then the woman would not be able to get either subsidized private insurance on a health care exchange or government-provided Medicaid.  In Florida in particular, the Governor and state legislature have been particularly vicious in cutting funding for hospitals and providers that treat Medicaid patients, and the GOP-stifled Congress has refused to consider expanded Medicaid beyond the original stimulus, so it would be even less likely this woman could get coverage there.

What’s left?  Read the rest of this entry →

New York Times Gives Mouth to Mouth to Discredited GOP Medicare Voucher Plan

8:01 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

(photo: HowardLake)

New York Times reporter Robert Pear and his editors try to resurrect a zombie proposal by the anti-Medicare zealots to displace the guaranteed benefits structure of Medicare.  Its just another attempt to push Paul Ryan’s voucher system that would systematically reduce benefits and shift rising health care costs to individuals, despite the fact this flawed approach has been repeatedly rejected by Congress and opposed by the vast majorities of Americans who want to preserve, not undermine, Medicare.

 

Worse, Mr. Pear tells us that “some Democrats” all nameless, support this approach for which the failed Super Committee has “built the case.”

Though it reached no agreement, the special Congressional committee on deficit reduction built a case for major structural changes in Medicare that would limit the government’s open-ended financial commitment to the program, lawmakers and health policy experts say.

Members of both parties told the panel that Medicare should offer a fixed amount of money to each beneficiary to buy coverage from competing private plans, whose costs and benefits would be tightly regulated by the government.

Pear tells us what we already know, that the GOP loves this idea — they’ve always wanted to dismantle a successful national health care system –and that it’s been endorsed by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.  Now there’s a validation.

So which Democrats are signing on to this pernicious GOP scheme?  Pear doesn’t cite a single Democrat by name, unless you count Barack Obama and his embrace of a similar system for non-seniors in the Affordable Care Act.  Would it be too much trouble to identity these Democrats by name so that voters can confront them when they go home?

So what’s the “case” the Super Committee “built” in support of this scheme?  Pear does a bait and switch:

Competition among private insurers has already driven down costs for prescription drug coverage under Medicare. Medicare’s drug benefit is delivered entirely by private insurers. In addition, one-fourth of the 48 million Medicare beneficiaries are in private Medicare Advantage plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, which cover a wide range of doctors’ services and hospital care.

It’s apparently too much trouble for the Times to inform its readers that there’s little if any evidence that “competition” has “driven down costs” of drugs for Medicare.  What we know is that the drug costs under Medicare were less than some feared, but they remain significantly higher than drug costs in other advanced nations.  They’re also higher than the drug costs faced by the more effective Veterans Administration, a highly rated, totally federally operated system with no private insurers “competing.”

As Dean Baker and others have repeatedly reminded us, the VA pays substantially less for exactly the same drugs — partly because the VA can bargain for price, but Medicare can’t (thanks to GOP and conservaDem coddling of drugsters and private insurers) — and the VA offers health care even more highly regarded than regular Medicare.  Never mind the subsidies the drug companies get from extended patents and non-compete agreements against generics, all ratified or made worse in the ACA.

To be sure, the Medicare drug benefit has been a boon to seniors, but part of the higher price we pay for its expensive private structure is to create and perpetuate a private insurance bailout scheme that becomes self perpetuating.  The drugsters and their private insurance supporters are some of the largest contributors to politicians’ campaigns.  The 99% are paying for a protection racket for the 1%.

As for evidence that competition among private insurers will drive down general health care costs, where’s the evidence?  Aside from the fact that, as Krugman (citing Ken Arrow) tells us, health insurance is not amenable to market competition, the evidence the Times/Pear cites is that lots of seniors sign on to private insurance under Medicare Advantage.  But Pear neglects to mention that the private insurers under Medicare Advantage survived and grew by receiving an average of 14 percent subsidy paid by Medicare.  When the ACA proposed to reduce that subsidy the private insurers squealed, telling seniors in scary tv commercials that Congress was taking away their Medicare.

So the single piece of evidence Pear cites doesn’t show that this scheme will reduce the federal budget, if that is the problem that needs solving; it will instead likely increase the budget costs unless the government simply limits the vouchers as costs rise and shifts those rising costs onto seniors.

It’s inexcusable that the Times cites mainly private health industry analysts and the GOP’s Jeb Hensarling (R. Texas).  Pear also sites budget hysteric Alice Rivlin, who can’t seem to grasp that the only way this “helps” the budget is by forcing seniors to pay more or make do with less health care, while actually making the health cost problem worse.  Dean Baker notes the CBO has already done the math:

The Congressional Budget Official projected that a Republican plan along these lines, that was approved by House earlier in this year, would raise the cost of Medicare equivalent polices by $34 trillion over the program’s 75-year planning horizon. While this plan would save the government money by reducing its payments for Medicare, it would mean that future generations of workers would pay far more for health care in their retirement. The cost of Medicare equivalent policies would far exceed the typical retiree’s income by 2050.

The Times couldn’t find a single supporter of maintaining Medicare’s guaranteed benefit structure, to point out how dependent many seniors are on Medicare and how that and other guaranteed federal support keeps millions out of poverty.

Nor could it find a prominent economist to explain that its not the aging population or Medicare per se that is causing the real problem.  The real problem is the rapidly rising costs of the private health care system.  If we fail to bring our private health care costs more in line with the costs paid by other nations for equal or better care, it’s the economy that tanks, not just Medicare for seniors.   Simply dumping seniors (or anyone else) into that over-priced system when we know that government-sponsored systems like Medicare and the VA consistently provide health care at a lower cost means that you don’t care about health care, don’t care about seniors and don’t care about the threat the private health care system is posing to the American economy.

More:

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan’s flim flam budget plan.

What Is Mr. Obama’s Principle on Recreating Slaves?

6:21 pm in Economy, Politics, Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Abraham Lincoln

"Abraham Lincoln" from onlinewoman on flickr

The President of the United States is not a descendant of former slaves, which may make it easier for him to draw analogies to what President Lincoln once said — see David Dayen’s post on Obama’s last lecture — about his willingness to make compromises about freeing slaves to advance his goal of preserving the Union.

Let’s recall what Lincoln actually wrote in his letter of 1862 to Horace Greeley in which he explained his Emancipation policy as it related to saving the Union:

. . . I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save Slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy Slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

WashPost: Obama to Propose Social Security, Medicare Cuts to Buy Boehner’s Vote on Taxes

6:55 pm in Economy, Politics by Scarecrow

The Washington Post has a story tonight, citing Democratic sources familiar with Obama’s views, that the President will propose a massive $4 trillion spending cut over the next decade that includes significant cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. . . .

It seems our President wants a grandiose bargain in which he plays Ronald Reagan and John Boehner plays Tiip O’Neill. And our President has entered some seriously deluded region in which he and those around him think the country will thank him for seizing this great opportunity to do what the Washington Post editorializes as “a major legislative achievement.”

Yes, at a time when the economy desperately needs more federal spending to offset what’s happening in the private sector and the states, when states and local governments are reeling, unemployment is stuck at 9 percent and the country desperately needs federal infrastructure funding, our misguided President wants to slash spending by [$3 trillion and aggregate demand] by a phenomenal $4 trillion in the near future. And it’s all about ego . . .

“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”

. . . and the conviction that doing exactly the wrong thing for the economy and destroying his Party’s brand and integrity will be rewarded at the polls:

The administration argues that lawmakers would also get an important victory to sell to voters in 2012. “The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain,” said a Democratic official familiar with the discussions.

Buckle up in your time machine, folks. We’re about to return to 1936-37, when the “fiscal good” argument put millions out of work. But don’t expect FDR to be reelected this time.

Update: The New York Times emphasizes the initiative came during John Boehner’s surprise White House visit on Sunday, in which he reportedly discussed the potential of $1 trillion in tax measures (which aren’t to be confused with raising taxes). That visit, first denied, has left some Democrats worried about Obama’s response. No kidding.

The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.

The intensifying negotiations between the president and the speaker have Congressional Democrats growing anxious, worried they will be asked to accept a deal that is too heavily tilted toward Republican efforts and produces too little new revenue relative to the magnitude of the cuts.

Uh, earth to Dems: Even ignoring that you’re dumb enough to throw away Paul Ryan’s House gift, if you get branded as having betrayed your promises on Medicare and Social Security, no amount of tax shifting offered by John Boehner is going to save you: “Sure, we cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits, but we sure nailed those guys with corporate jets and hedge funds!” Say “good night,” Gracie.

Update II: via Huffpo, another anonymous White House source tells us these stories “overshoot the runway,” so everyone should calm down. Sorry, but it was their plane, their runway, their pilot and their air traffic controller. Once again, they’re saying Obama won’t “slash” benefits, but you can bleed someone to death with cuts that start small.

From the archives:
Jane Hamsher, Obama packs debt commission with Social Security privatizers and benefit cut supporters

ObamaCare vs. RyanCare: Scarecrow Gets Confused With “Serious” Strawmen

5:02 pm in Economy by Scarecrow

Ever since Jon Walker and I pointed out the real and superficial similarities between Paul Ryan’s proposed RyanCare for future seniors and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) structure for non-seniors, numerous pundits have been trying to deny either the similarities or the differences.

For example, Ryan’s supporters are in denial that RyanCare requires a mandate, even though he admitted — just as the logic suggested — that he’d require future seniors to purchase a private health insurance plan from a government-overseen exchange. And ObamaCare supporters are in denial that their ACA insurance exchanges rely on pretty much the same faith in the ability of a mostly free private insurance market to sufficiently control health care costs and hence insurance premiums.

We’ve tried to categorize and distinguish Medicare, RomneyCare, ObamaCare and RyanCare — see, e.g., here, here, here, and here — some have tried to grapple with the distinctions, and others have tried to fuzz it all up to serve whatever agenda they had.

The latest effort to make something out of the similarities is from the Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein, who provokes Paul Krugman into describing Pearlstein as a Very Serious Person, — i.e., someone who gets it wrong.

Krugman and DeLong (responding to Mankiw) address the question, “are non-seniors better off under the ACA/ObamaCare’s subsidized exchanges than they would be without the ACA?” If those are the only choices, their answer is “yes,” though I don’t think they’ve confronted the numerous “affordability” arguments Marcy Wheeler made when ACA was being debated. But let’s assume they’re correct. That still leaves the large question about how well the exchanges can control costs unanswered.

The Administration, Democrats and ACA supporters insisted the exchanges would work to control health care costs because competition within the insurance market would control prices while maintaining quality care and service. But I understand Paul Ryan to be making the same argument for RyanCare: his private insurance market exchanges will make health care affordable, he claims, because future seniors exercising choice when shopping in the insurance exchange markets will benefit from private market competition. Both rely on a mostly free market theory.

Either this claim and its faith in markets are plausible or they’re not. My concern is that when Paul Krugman (or DeLong citing him) talks about the merits of Medicare versus RyanCare, there’s a reminder that ever since Ken Arrow, economists have known the competitive market argument doesn’t work in this industry.

Even ignoring the already huge concentration in the insurance industry, and increasingly so in the hospital and other provider sectors, none of the elements required to make an industry amendable to effective competition and efficient market pricing exist. Therefore, RyanCare can’t achieve the cost savings Ryan claims. But government-sponsored systems like Medicare, because they can reduce administrative costs, and because they can exercise single-buyer market power that individuals in the exchanges will not have, can do better — and have done better, here and in Europe.

If that’s true, then it’s not enough for economists and other ACA supporters to argue the ACA should be better than not having insurance at all; they need to explain why Arrow’s analysis and real-world experience do not apply to the market-based claims for the ACA exchanges, just as they do to RyanCare. And if this is a fatal flaw for RyanCare, isn’t it also a fatal flaw for the exchange structure of ACA?

Does the New York Times Know Our Politicians Speak Gibberish about Deficits?

9:02 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

For reasons known only to its publishers, the New York Times has chosen to assign reporters and editors to the budget/deficit negotiations who seem oblivious that the politicians they routinely quote are speaking gibberish, without any effort by the Times to explain it’s gibberish.

In this article about the “breakdown” of the deficit reduction talks around Joe Biden’s dining table — a “breakdown” occurs when Eric Cantor chooses not to attend a meeting — Times reporter Carl Hulse dutifully repeats politicians’ nonsense without any further explanation or context:

From Eric Cantor:

“As it stands, the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement. “There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.”

Here’s similar gibberish from Senators McConnell and Kyl:

“President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit,” Mr. McConnell and Mr. Kyl said in a joint statement. “He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

Any first grader knows that 2 + 2 = 4. Any fourth grader knows that if you lower spending by $2 and raise income by $2 it adds up to a $4 effect. But apparently, any Tea-GOP representative is allowed to pretend this is not true, and the Times will report their statements without noting that senior officials in a major party are speaking gibberish.
Read the rest of this entry →

Ezra Klein Says Government Health Programs Work, So Why Not Expand Medicare?

8:17 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I’m a little confused by Erza Klein’s mostly helpful post showing, once again, the US paying much higher public and private costs than OECD countries for health care. Congress and the Administration should be reminded of that every day.

Klein is surely correct in noting that other developed nations rely much more on government-sponsored plans than purely private systems. As a result, they achieve not only lower total health care costs, as a percentage of GDP, but more universal coverage (and equal or better care) than does the US. The lesson to draw is fairly obvious: we need to move towards Medicare for all or some variation of a government-sponsored single-buyer model. But curiously, it’s not clear that’s what Ezra means.

I think Klein inadvertently muddles the point when he compares Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with its increasingly inadequate voucher system to buy private insurance with the Democrat’s plan — in the Affordable Care Act — to preserve Medicare in its present form but make it more cost effective. The comparison is valid, and I share the condemnation of what Ryan is proposing. But what Klein has done is to switch in mid-post from talking about universal coverage/care systems to talking only about what we do for the elderly.

What I’d like to have seen is Klein dealing with the alternative proposals for how to provide affordable, quality care for everyone else. Because here I think he’s lost his own point.
Read the rest of this entry →

Tea-GOP Idiot Watch: Santorum Thinks D-Day Deaths Won Right to Deny Health Care

10:20 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I know, I jumped all over the media for paying so much attention to the clown car carrying the Tea-GOP Presidential wannabees. But really, when they routinely say things this mind-numblingly stupid, you have to ask, why are these people getting any serious attention? Why aren’t they universally and relentlessly ridiculed?

Today, newly announced wannabe, Rick Santorum used June 6, the anniversary of D-Day, in which thousands of people were killed, to explain that the reason the Allies stormed ashore at Normandy was to have the “freedom” not to receive adequate health care when they came home or got old. Here’s Santorum today, via TPM:

. . . Santorum said, what he and Paul Ryan want to do is “give people the resources to go out and choose for themselves choose what’s best for themselves.”

Unlike Obama, he continued, who is spitting in the face of those Americans who fought on D-Day, 67 years ago today. “Almost 60,000 average Americans had the courage to go out and charge those beaches on Normandy, to drop out of airplanes who knows where, and take on the battle for freedom,” Santorum said.

“Average Americans,” he added. “The very Americans that our government now, and this president, does not trust a to make decision on your health care plan. Those Americans risked everything so they could make that decision on their health care plan.”

Nevermind that Americans has voted repeatedly for two centuries for Congresses to provide government-backed health care for the nation’s veterans, and veterans freely choose it when given the choice.

No, according to Santorum’s “logic,” when the Democrats want to preserve the current framework of Medicare, in which those over the age of 65 can choose to be insured directly by Medicare or instead choose to have equivalent or greater coverage via private Medicare Advantage plans paid by Medicare, that is denying choice to these Americans.

But when Mr. Ryan”s plan to end Medicare limits the future elderly to a voucher that, according to the CBO, falls thousands of dollars short of the premiums needed to purchase Medicare-equivalent coverage from private insurers, and then tells them they have to purchase private insurance — and purchase only from private insurers without the choice of traditional and cheaper Medicare — then according to Santorum, that’s giving Americans the kind of freedom that thousands of Allied soldiers died to protect.

Between Sarah Palin having Paul Revere firing shots and ringing bells to warn the British that America would one day be full of very stupid politicians, and Rick Santorum telling us that denying choice and leaving health care unaffordable is why Americans died at Normandy, I fear it’s unlikely the history profession will survive the assault. Quick, everyone, memorize a history book!

Paul Krugman summed it up today:

Is it just me, or is there a remarkable absence of D-Day related stories in today’s news? Maybe editors are too busy saving Ryan’s privatization.

NYT’s Harwood: Democrats Should Cut Medicare So Republicans Don’t Get Blamed

6:30 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

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.