Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wanted: USA Default, Cut-Cap-Duck, More on the IPAB, Trouble for Medigap

While Washington has almost always (at least since President Jefferson) been in the grip of partisan politics, it's really reached the ridiculous as Conservatives push their ideology even harder as they push the US government toward default.  It's strident hardball as they play chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States.  Once again, Republicans are choosing politics over either good sense or building a solution to the Nation's critical fiscal problems.

Default Desires Emerge More Strongly

Conservatives are telling Republicans: Trigger A Default, Or Else!  "To understand why Republicans won't raise the debt limit until after they hold a symbolic vote on a plan to squeeze the government down to a size that would require it to gut popular entitlement programs, it's important to realize it's not just because of the political perks.  Powerful conservative interest groups are demanding they vote for it.  And at the same time they're warning the GOP against voting for the only viable option currently on the table for avoiding a catastrophic debt default."

One common political trick is trying to have your cake and eat it too.  Clearly, Republicans have been in a fix since they lost control of their party to the many Conservative fringe groups, such as the Tea Party and the Club for Growth.  Republicans are bowing to Conservative pressure while knowing full well that a default is unacceptable.

I am coming to the conclusion that a default actually is possible, not because of any actual intention or any definitive act, but because of some unexpected accident that will take us beyond the brink -- prevent an agreement and throw us all into an international catastrophe.

False Balance, False Promise

On a closely related note, "Tuesday, the House of Representatives will vote on, and likely pass, a conservative Republican plan called 'Cut, Cap, and Balance.'  The package will include some immediate, as-yet unspecified spending cuts, a statutory cap to keep spending below 18 percent of GDP, and a promised separate vote on a Constitutional amendment that requires Congress to maintain a balanced budget, but essentially forbids any future tax increases."

The article continues, "Indeed, it's likely that Republican leaders would never push for such a package if they thought it stood a chance of becoming law, or of changing the Constitution.  But it doesn't.  So this week's efforts come with great political upside for the GOP and none of the peril that would entail actually complying with Cut, Cap, and Balance.  It gives them an opening to sucker punch vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election in 2012, who've articulated support for a balanced budget amendment in the past but will oppose this one."

More political posturing.  A catchy name, but, once again, form without substance -- not even anything close to a symbolic gesture.  Of course, this "proposal" has no chance of passing Congress, so it's another empty, wasted, meaningless act.  Can you tell that I'm increasingly worried and frustrated by the tone of Conservative Republicans whose ideas are set in concrete?  Empty words.

The IPAB Rides Again

Even though the Independent Payment Advisory Board doesn't yet exist and it's prohibited from rationing, Conservative Republicans already are attacking it vigorously.  "Remember the debunked death panels?  A new Medicare board that Republicans are calling a 'rationing panel' could become the next boogeyman in the nation's hyperbolic health care debate.  But don't look for the Independent Payment Advisory Board to start slashing anytime soon.  IPAB doesn't even exist yet.  ...  IPAB is forbidden by law from rationing, but that hasn't stopped critics."

Ever heard of the old adage (from political machine politics) "vote early and often?"  Well, Conservatives have adopted the "criticize early and often" tactic and raised it to a new level.  It's how they convinced so many people that it's OK for the rich to pay fewer taxes than the rest of us.  It's how they persuaded us that the financing for Medicare and Social Security is in imminent jeopardy.

Medigap Policies May Be Under Fire

"As debt limit talks drag on, lawmakers are eying possible changes in Medicare supplemental plans -- moves that could increase seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.  Traditional Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled, requires beneficiaries to pay hospital deductibles and a portion of the cost of tests and doctor visits."  For protection, Medicare beneficiaries buy Medigap plans.  Unfortunately, "some health policy experts say such 'first-dollar protection' drives up demand for Medicare services, costing the government money for what may be unnecessary care."

For Your Information

For a more comprehensive look at the consequences of inaction on the debt ceiling:


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