Paul Ryan - Caricature

Paul Ryan - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flickr

It is Monday so what do I find in my in-box but another tightly coiled steaming pile of conservative idiocy by Robert Samuelson. It is a real drag to write about him because there really are no snappy pejoratives to describe him that don’t insult the people or item one compares him to. So I am not going to try that today, I am just going to call it straight, Robert Samuelson is a partisan liar.

His entire column is filled with half-truths, false comparisons and blatant lies. Let’s break it down. He starts out by trying to co-opt the “Ending Medicare as we know it” meme that not only Democrats but just about any person that can read and reason understands is the outcome of the Ryan budget. But then Robby ups the ante he says:

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that unless we end Medicare “as we know it,” America “as we know it” will end.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie. There is no chance that our taking care of the elderly has to end America as we know it. Well, unless you have been so brainwashed by the conservative movement that you are still living in the 1880’s idea of what America is. You know, white, rich and a bunch of basically peasants that are just there to turn the wheels of industry and take the crumbs the Robber Barons deign to leave behind. Then it might be end to that America, which the rest of us left behind long ago.

He then conflates health care spending for government programs (which do include the VA, but he doesn’t mention it since he wants to kill Medicare and Medicaid) and private health care spending. He says:

Uncontrolled health spending isn’t simply crowding out other government programs; it’s also dampening overall living standards. Health economists Michael Chernew, Richard Hirth and David Cutler recently reported that higher health costs consumed 35.7 percent of the increase in per capita income from 1999 to 2007. They also project, that under reasonable assumptions, it could absorb half or more of the gain between now and 2083.


This just pisses me off no end. We know the factors that are driving our increase in medical costs which lead to more medical spending. There is the population bulge from the Baby Boomers who are getting older and will be more expensive, just like everyone always is when they are older, and the fact that we don’t do anything to control our costs.

If we had a public option or better yet, a single payer system, we would be spending a lot less for all medical care nation wide. Lest we forget, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have some kind of single payer health care system. And we are the nation that spends the most on health care. These two facts are directly correlated, but you won’t catch anyone like Samuelson talking about.

Samuelson then drops to his knees to give some oral loving to the Ryan plan. He makes the lame point that if seniors had the ability to shop with a measly $8000 from the government for the, in his words “lowest-cost, highest-quality insurance plans providing a required package of benefit” they will bend the cost curve.
Of course this is horse shit. First off, exactly how are seniors supposed to know what is the best health care for them? They are not doctors, they don’t know the actuary information that will let them evaluate what might be coming down the pike health care-wise, and frankly it is not going to be enough, because the plan does not have a mechanism for increasing those vouchers over time.

Even Samuelson is not sure that this plan will work. He says:

It’s shock therapy. Would it work? No one knows, but two things are clear.

This is what is so disturbing about the whole article. Here is this Conservative windbag who is defending one of the most unpopular and radical changes to our social programs ever proposed, and even he is not willing or able to say, if we do this it will work.

Well, I am not Robert Samuelson, so I will say I know, this plan will not work, if by work you mean continue to cover our seniors with all the health care they need. If the goal is to send a hell of a lot of more money to insurance companies who have show themselves to be more concerned about profit than care, then sure it’ll work great!

Then there is this little nugget:

If the CBO is correct, Ryan’s plan fails; beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs would roughly double to cover the added expense. But the CBO may be wrong.

Really how likely is the CBO to be flatly wrong? Sure they miss the mark on the costs of things from time to time, but that is more a function of the way that bills are written which determines how the CBO scores them than an indicator of unreliability on the part of the CBO. Should we really take a chance on a plan that will cost us 1/3 more in 2022 over the current system and then will make it harder for elderly people to get the care they need?

The whole premise of the Ryan plan is that if there is a total cap on the amount of money the Federal Government will spend on Medicare then it will bring costs down. That assumes that no other money will be put in to make up the difference and this is the fallacy of it all. If your mother or father or grandparents have to have home care or care in a home of some kind and there is $8,000 from the government, but it costs $13,000 is there anyone reading this that is not going to try to pay the difference?

It has been said many times but it bears repeating, the Ryan plan saves money by shifting costs off the government and onto the taxpayers. It will hit the poor and middle class and even upper middle class very hard. The money saved is not even used for the purposes of reducing our deficit or our debt. It goes to a massive tax cut for the ultra-wealthy. All the while leaving the working classes to transfer their meager wealth to the insurance companies.

Samuelson ends with this soft little turd of a paragraph:

It’s Ryan’s radicalism vs. President Obama’s tinkering. Which is realistic and which is wishful thinking? This important debate should rise above cheap political rhetoric. Burdened by runaway spending, Medicare “as we know it” is going to end. The only questions are when and on whose terms.

Since the Republicans spent two years claiming that Democrats were going to destroy Medicare it is ironic that they don’t like having the same (and accurate) meme put on them. I will give Robby this little bit, Medicare as we know it will end, when we have a single payer system that helps us remove the profit motive from the administration of health care. That is the only acceptable time for such an end.

This is not the last article like this you are going to see from Republican and Conservative talkers. As a group they are looking around desperately to cover the political malpractice that Speaker Boehner committed by making the House Republicans vote for this horribly regressive and unpopular budget. Samuelson is floating the “tough love” meme here.

He is trying to get it accepted that Medicare needs radical change and we have to do it now. It is incumbent on all Democratic/Liberal/Progressive talkers and bloggers to push back on this. The frame that we have to do something radical is one that we can’t allow to become the common wisdom. If it does we have lost on this issue.

Just as important is to call out the outright lies and distortions that are being used to do so. This issue is an important one, but not because something has to be done, but because people like Ryan and Samuelson want to completely dismantle our social safety net in the name of saving some mythical America. Don’t let them do it.

The floor is yours.