Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Playing Chicken, Angry Constituents, The Very Same Auld Bad-Good Cuts, More

House Debt Limit Vote:  Republicans Vote Against Raising Debt Ceiling.  Cynical as ever, House Republicans  -- and Democrats also share the trait -- brought to the floor for a vote a "clean" debt limit extension.  "House Republicans dealt defeat to their own proposal for a $2.4 trillion increase in the nation's debt limit Tuesday, a political gambit designed to reinforce a demand for spending cuts to accompany any increase in government borrowing."  "... Democrats added that Republicans were attempting to draw attention away from their controversial plan to turn Medicare into a program in which seniors purchase private insurance coverage."

More:  "As expected, indeed intended, a bill brought to the floor by House Republicans that would extend the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion with no strings attached was overwhelmingly rejected Tuesday evening.  Democrats split close to evenly on the 318-97 vote, which party leaders decried as a political stunt."  Thus, the House Rejects Debt Ceiling Increase With 97 Democrats Voting ‘Yes.’  "In floor speeches, Democrats accused the majority of threatening the nation's credit and risking an economic catastrophe by refusing to pay for past debt carried over from the Bush administration."  Sounds like a good point the Democrats should press.

Are you a newly elected Republican?  Facing angry constituents?  Having trouble spinning your message?  Worried about your re-election?  It's too late for the GOP's candidate in the NY-26, but it's not too late for others:  FreedomWorks Gives Freshman Republicans Tips For Dealing With Medicare At Town Halls.  "The conservative group FreedomWorks has a message for freshman Republicans in Congress:  Do not shy away from the Medicare fight.  On May 24, the group run by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey convened one of its regular off-the-record meetings with 'communicators from limited-government conservative offices in the House and Senate who have a close relationship with the grassroots.'"

Among the tips:  focus on the debt ceiling, say immediate Medicare benefits won't be affected, say Republicans are "saving and strengthening these programs for the current and future generations," say "Democrats do not have a plan of their own," and, of course, "stick to your message."  It sounds like the conservative freshman Republican class needs a lot of hand-holding.  Expect that to be followed by arm-twisting, horse-trading, etc.  Hopefully, a little soul-searching is possible.

How can the very same "Medicare cuts" be bad if President Obama proposes them and good if the conservative Republicans proposes them?  If you're a Republican or a Conservative, it's as easy as Politics 101 -- Using Obfuscation and Blaming to Confuse Citizens and Get Your Way.

"Right-wing media figures are claiming that Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal does not cut Medicare spending, while accusing President Obama of having 'cut' $500 billion from Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act.  In fact, these 'cuts' come through eliminating parts of Medicare 'seen as ineffective or wasteful,' and Ryan's plan retains this $500 billion in reductions, while increasing out-of-pocket costs for seniors."  President Obama is addressing the need to improve the effectiveness of Medicare by cutting waste.  For more about the right wing media madness (which is wholly unaccountable), see:  Right-Wing Media Attack Obama Over Medicare"Cuts" As They Praise Ryan Plan, Which Includes Same "Cuts."

"Doctors are changing.  They are abandoning their own practices and taking salaried jobs in hospitals, particularly in the North, but increasingly in the South as well.  Half of all younger doctors are women, and that share is likely to grow."  And, As Physicians’ Jobs Change, So Do Their Politics.  "That change could have a profound effect on the nation’s health care debate.  Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama’s legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said."

"Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty told people during a Monday stop in Iowa that the key difference between his Medicare proposal and the proposal introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wiscosnin, is that his plan will change the way providers are paid."  Pawlenty would give doctors 'performance pay.'  He also said that, if his only choices were Ryan's plan or doing nothing, then he would support Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare.

We always try to include something "balanced" in our blog.  Well, at least not as imbalanced and imbecilic as some of the content.  "Both Republicans and Democrats agree that rising Medicare costs are the principal long-term driver of the federal deficit.  They just don't agree on how to rein in the spending.  The lesson from New York's special House election is that the Republicans' plan -- vouchers to purchase a private insurance plan -- may be political kryptonite, and some are starting to back away.  So what will the Democrats do to curb costs?  The new health-care law gives an independent board the power to make sweeping cuts in Medicare spending.  President Obama's new deficit reduction plan proposes to beef up that power."  Congress and Medicare includes many good ideas for improvements to Medicare.

Clearly, partisan politics has a negative effect on the efficacy of Medicare.  "The beauty of the Independent Payment Advisory Board is that it keeps Congress on the sidelines.  If Medicare spending growth exceeds a set target, the board is required to recommend cuts to reduce spending by specified amounts, starting in 2015.  The reductions automatically go into effect unless Congress comes up with alternative cuts that result in equivalent savings."

You know, of course, that if any changes at all are made to Medicare -- even if initially objected to by the Republicans / Conservatives, then the will claim credit for the "leadership" and "pressure" which led to those needed changes.  It places Democrats and Liberals in a difficult position, of course and on purpose.  However, it fits in nicely with Republican / Conservative strategy.  "See.  We are right; costs ARE out of control."  Or, "See.  We are right; Democrats ARE unable to change."  A win-win for Republicans / Conservatives and a lose-lose for Democrats and Liberals.


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