Monday, April 16, 2012

GOP Tarnished Brand, Medicare Crisis, The Good in Medicare, Romney and Congress

The Democrat Advantage

"The history of these primaries really begins twelve years ago when George W. Bush first ran for president on the theme of 'compassionate conservatism.'  This notion allowed Bush to separate and contrast himself with the negative image of the GOP during the 1990s.  During that decade, congressional Republicans proposed significant cuts to federal entitlement programs like Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid.  These proposals made it easy for Bill Clinton and the Democrats to move to the political center.  They cast then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as callous, hostile to the poor and the elderly."

These same Republicans are STILL proposing huge, unpopular ideological cuts to social programs.  In fact, you can look back to Truman's re-election troubles -- although he won -- and trace the beginnings of today's Republican "dirty" politics and hostility toward social programs.

Ducking the Medicare Crisis

"But the politics of Medicare have been poisonous, so toxic that Democrats haven’t been willing to engage seriously on the issue, while Republicans have advanced a proposal that would eviscerate Medicare rather than preserve it.  The current effort to trim Medicare costs, through initiatives like limiting payment increases to health care providers, amounts to picking the low-hanging fruit.  What comes next will surely be more painful and contentious."

Medicare Concern

"Some readers have asked me for a reaction to Steve Rattner’s piece on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.  The short answer is that it’s a classic piece of concern trolling -- the practice, all too common among a certain class of commentators, of professing sympathy with progressive policy goals, then, invariably, finding a way to support right-wing talking points.  The way to cut through the whole double-counting nonsense is to ask the following: did the ACA improve or worsen the fiscal outlook compared with what it would have been without the legislation?  The answer is that it improved the outlook -- the additional revenues plus cost savings outweigh the cost of the subsidies.  End of story."

Congress and Romney Work Together

"Before Rep. Paul Ryan rolled out his controversial budget plan last month, there was one man eager to learn its details.  Over the course of several phone calls with Romney, the Wisconsin Republican explained -- point by point -- his plan to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid and to cut the budget deficit. It gave Romney fodder to defend the plan against sharp campaign attacks.  The private phone calls are one sign of increased communication between the presumptive presidential nominee’s team and top congressional Republicans, marking a new effort to build a relationship critical to their party’s success in November."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

Mitt Romney: Mothers Should Be Required To Work Outside Home Or Lose Benefits (What!  I thought family values meant the mother stayed home.)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Pals: Romney and Ryan, How the Banks Destroyed Medicare, Ryan's Faith

New Best Buds Getting Along

"One of the sharpest dividing lines emerging between President Obama and GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is the budget introduced in Congress by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., with its sharp cuts in domestic spending and lower tax rates."

"Linking himself to Ryan's proposed tax cuts and structural reforms for Medicare was a bold conservative move, says Vin Weber, an informal adviser to the Romney campaign.  'It helped with the Republican base, and it helped unify the Republican Party more broadly than that,' says Weber.  'But I think at the end of the day the question is, 'Will a serious approach to reforming Medicare -- and thus dealing with our long-term debt problem -- be a winning issue in the fall, or won't it be?' I genuinely fear for the country if it's not.  But it is an open question.'"

Banking Off the Hook

"The world’s largest banks have been accused of many things in recent years, including taking excessive risk in the run-up to 2008, doing great damage to the American economy by blowing themselves up and then working hard to resist any sensible notions of financial reform."

"All of this is true, but it misses what is likely to be the most profound negative impact of the banks’ behavior on most Americans.  The banks’ actions led directly to an increase in government debt, which in turn has made the reduction of that debt by 'cutting runaway spending' a centerpiece of the Republican presidential campaign to date.  As a result of this pressure, Medicare now stands on the brink of being eliminated as a viable form of social insurance.  Yet the executives who lead these banks -- and the politicians with whom they work closely -- will not be held accountable this election season."

Religious Leaders Slam Ryan For Using Catholic Faith To Justify Cutting Programs That Help The Poor

"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Christian Broadcast Network earlier this week that the House GOP’s budget, which he wrote, was driven by his Catholic faith.  'A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,' Ryan said, and Catholic principles are what led him to cut programs for the poor so as to keep people from becoming 'dependent on government."

"'By these measures,' the release [from the PICO National Network, the largest national coalition of religious congregations] says, 'the Ryan budget is a severe failure,' noting that it cuts Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and 'other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives,' while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations."


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

GOP Reform, Medicare Political Fallout (Bush II), Tea Party Visions

Ask Republicans About Healthcare Reform

"As we await the verdict of nine Supreme Court Justices on the constitutionality of all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is worth asking what the remaining Republican Presidential nominees would create in its place."

"We know that Mitt Romney would 'direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health care solutions that work best for them.'  We know that he has changed his position from 'pro-choice' to 'pro-life,' and that he now supports the Blunt proposal allowing employers and insurers to limit coverage of contraceptives if they have religious/moral objections to that provision.  We also know he is proposing to return Medicaid spending entirely to the states, that he would raise the Medicare eligibility age by one month per year during his presidency, and that he would offer Medicare recipients (by 2022) a choice between 'the traditional, fee-for-service government health-care program and a new option to purchase private insurance, with the cost partly supported by the government.'  Since so many of those proposals also appear in the 2012 Ryan budget passed by the House in March, we also know that Romney has declared that budget 'a bold and exciting effort, very much consistent with what I put out earlier.'"

Still Feeling the Effects

"Now we have a yawning federal deficit that continues to grow past $15 Trillion.  Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was fired by VP Cheney for advocating that the four Clinton years of budget surpluses be used to put social security and Medicare on a more secure footing, described the result of the debate that led to such a disastrous decision in The Price of Loyalty.  It was to return government to its 1900 size, the era of William McKinley and the Robber Barons, by reducing government spending enough 'to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub', Grover Norquist, architect of the no tax increase pledge signed by more than 200 Republican legislators, once famously said."

Which America?

"Americans have long debated two fundamentally different visions of what kind of country the U.S. should be.  The first is the vision of a society that provides unrestricted liberty to acquire wealth.  The second is the vision of a realized democracy in which rights over society's major institutions are established."

"The Tea Party is overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and either middle-aged or elderly.  It thrives on a deeply felt dichotomy between the deserving and the undeserving.  At the grassroots level, much of the Tea Party is not hostile to Social Security or Medicare, unlike the professional ideologues that are exploiting it.  Tea Party Republicans are quite certain that they deserve their own Social Security and Medicare.  But they are outraged that undeserving people get taxpayer-funded benefits from the government.  In the Tea Party version of the American dream, there is no such thing as the common good.  There is only the sum of individual goods, which many people do not deserve."

For Your Information


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Local Politics of Medicare

Yes, they're at home for Spring break.  Here's a sampling: 

New Hampshire Voters and Medicare

"At home in New Hampshire, the land of Yankee skepticism, congressman Charlie Bass was being asked to explain his support for the new Republican budget.  'What I have heard is that it would end Medicare as we know it,' a nurse from Charlestown, New Hampshire, told Bass during a town hall meeting last week, holding a printout of an e-mail in her hand."

"At a time of high unemployment and home foreclosure rates, frustration with Congress and rising anxiety over how to deal with the national debt without gutting programs such as Medicare health insurance for the elderly and the Social Security retirement program, such meetings aren't always comfortable for lawmakers."


"Altmire ran a commercial accusing Critz of endangering Medicare and Social Security because he did not vote against a Republican budget.  Technically, Critz did not vote for or against the budget: He voted 'present' as part of a move Democrats engineered to embarrass Republicans by making them kill their own budget."


"He saved his most heated comments, however, for the Republican budget plan -- often known for its architect, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -- that would effectively transform Medicare into a voucher program.  'It's a disaster. In a finite number of years, seniors will be back to where they were in 1955, which is sick and unable to get treatment,' King said.  'I don't know what they're thinking.  Except, I think that proposal represents a strain of thinking that goes back to -- they want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare.'"


Monday, April 9, 2012

More Against Ryan Budget, Want Social Darwinism?, Romney Deception, Politics Prevents Jobs

Obama Against Prescription for Decline

"Budget politics and the 2012 campaign merged today, as President Obama lit into Republicans and their priorities.  His main target was the House Republican budget plan.  It would cut the deficit by $3.3 trillion in the next decade, over and above the $4 trillion in savings in the Obama budget.  The president addressed the Associated Press annual meeting in Washington."

"PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics.  They keep telling us that if we convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger."

Budget Promotes Social Darwinism

OPINION:  "The returns weren't all in yet on Tuesday's Republican primaries but President Obama didn't wait. He kicked off his 2012 campaign against Mitt Romney with a hard-hitting speech centered on the House Republicans' budget plan -- which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed.  That plan, by the way, is the most radical reverse-Robin Hood proposal propounded by any political party in modern America."

"It would save millionaires at least $150,000 a year in taxes while gutting Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, transportation, child nutrition, college aid, and almost everything else average and lower-income Americans depend on.  Here's what the president had to say about it:  'Disguised as a deficit reduction...  it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.  It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.'"

Romney Tales

"Romney proclaimed that Obama 'is the only president to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare.'  Given that Romney supports the GOP-backed Ryan budget that calls for severe slashes in Medicare spending, this is an odd charge.  It is also false.  As PolitiFact notes, Obama's 'health care law reduces the amount of future spending growth in Medicare.  But it doesn't cut Medicare.'  By the way, Obama's law expanded certain Medicare benefits.  The fact checking site also points out that Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton each enacted Medicare cuts."

Jobs and Medicare: The Ryan Budget

"Not only does this budget seek to change the fundamental structure of the U.S. economy and American society by undermining the popular and successful Medicare program and gifting $3 trillion in tax cuts for the already wealthy, but it also slashes nearly $900 billion from public investments in education, science, and infrastructure critical to growth -- all without offering specific policies for job creation or new revenue sources.  This budget would threaten the progress we’re making by undermining growth and weakening middle-class families."

For Your Information


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mitt Romney Claims President Obama Will 'End Medicare'

Romney Strays From Truth, No Surprise

"In a speech Wednesday, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney attacked President Barack Obama's signature health care policy by falsely claiming that Obama 'has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it."

"Romney's speech before the American Society of News Editors was clearly an effort to turn the tables after Obama's own speech before the group on Tuesday, in which the president strongly criticized the federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee. The Ryan budget would cut Medicare and convert it into a voucher program, cut food stamps and health insurance for poor children, and provide large tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Romney recently called the budget 'marvelous.'"

Just when you  think you've seen almost everything in politics . . .  Although, there were hints of such an attack recently when Republicans tried to criticize the President for "cutting" Medicare.  Meanwhile . . .

President on Attack

"President Obama made clear Tuesday that he’s not about to soften his criticism of Republicans’ Medicare proposals, charging again that the GOP plan would 'end Medicare as we know it.'  Obama also referred to the GOP’s Medicare proposal as a 'voucher' system -- another characterization that Republicans insist is inaccurate."

Last year, we said the Republicans would try to change the terminology, because their market research told them that "voucher" was a four letter word.  Of course, it wasn't long before they began to call it "premium support."


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Revamping Medicare, Medicare For All, Thoughts on Affordable Care

Proposals to Revamp Medicare

From Kaiser Health News:  "Congress is unlikely to consider legislation that would fundamentally restructure Medicare until a new Congress -- and possibly a new president -- are seated in 2013.  But politicians have sought to tackle the growth in Medicare costs several times in the past two years, most notably in the 2010 health care law and, then again, in last year's budget deal."

"The more immediate pressure is to reduce the deficit by the end of this year to stop automatic 2 percent spending cuts from going into effect in 2013, as required by last year's budget agreement.  That will likely entail slowing spending in Medicare, which provides health care to 47 million seniors and disabled people and consumes about 15 percent of the federal budget.  Kaiser Health News answered several frequently-asked questions about the timeline for overhauling Medicare and reducing spending, and the proposals under consideration."

Highly recommended, as is every piece of original work from Kaiser Health News.

Talk About Universal Medicare

"Conservatives and liberals may disagree about the constitutionality of the individual mandate requiring all uninsured Americans to buy health insurance from private companies or pay a penalty to the IRS.  But there is no debate about whether single-payer Medicare For All would be constitutional.  No one -- not even the most hard core, right-wing libertarians -- disputes that the federal government has the constitutional authority to tax all Americans to pay for Medicare-style health insurance for all, as it pays for Medicare for everyone over 65."

Supreme Court and Affordable Care

"Conservative intellectuals are feeling giddy.  Last week they feasted on the veritable mauling of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli by the Supreme Court’s five conservative justices.  (In truth, Verrilli was only questioned by four of the conservatives -- Justice Clarence Thomas, true to form, didn’t speak.)"

"... there is really no question that existing Commerce Clause doctrine squarely supports the law.  If the court wants to redefine Commerce Clause doctrine, five votes can do it.  But it will be an act of judicial activism and require an entire rewriting of our understanding of what powers Congress does and does not have in its arsenal to deal with national economic problems.  Bear in mind, the mandate in this case is conceptually no different from the existing mandate that every employed person pay into the fund that supports Medicare, whether the individual does now, or ever will, benefit from the Medicare system."

Sen. Schumer's Take

"Senator Chuck Schumer is trying to reset the expectations for the Supreme Court's ruling on the president's health care law."  "'If they were to throw out the health care law, things like Medicare, Social Security, food-safety laws could be in jeopardy on the very same grounds,' he said.  'It would be a dramatic, 180-degree turn of the tradition of the Commerce Clause.'"


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 On Their Minds, Ryan Budget

Quieter on the national scene with Congress back home.

More About 2012

"Path to prosperity or road to ruin?  That is the question and how it is being defined as the Republicans approved a budget this week in the House.  The budget is literally a blueprint that would dramatically transform Medicare, cut domestic spending to levels not seen in almost 70 years and force a dynamic overhaul of the tax code."

"The plan was passed 228-191 without a single Democratic vote and 10 Republican defectors.  It provided the stage from which the 2012 elections will be fought with fierce determination and a clear choice for voters.  The Democratic side of the argument will attempt to portray the Republican budget plan as punishing the elderly and impoverished (Medicare cuts), while rewarding the GOP's 'base' with further and more lucrative tax cuts."

Yes, yes.  We know more and more about how the 2012 elections might play out.

Ryan Budget

"The Republican Medicare plan, which does indeed end Medicare as we know it (just a little bit slower than the Paul Ryan budget they adopted last year) isn't finding much support outside the party, despite the fact that the 'premium support' Ryan included in the budget is derived partly from a plan he cooked up with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)."

No Allies

"House Republicans are struggling to make the case that their proposed Medicare overhaul has broad support.   The GOP has been ramping up its argument that Democrats have, in the past, supported 'premium support' reforms despite the party's united attacks against the proposal ahead of the November elections.  They are trying to persuade voters that Republicans have a bipartisan plan to save the program from bankruptcy, while painting Democrats as hypocrites out to scare seniors."


Monday, April 2, 2012

Republican Health Care Hypocrisy, Medicare Toxic for GOP, Social Security, Affordable Care Support

GOP Loves Government-Run Health Care

"There’s always hypocrisy in Washington but past and present Republican presidential candidates have used the debate on healthcare to take it to heights unimaginable even in the nation’s capital. This week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tried again to cripple Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors."

"All of them say they oppose the Affordable Care Act because they claim it is 'government run healthcare.'  But don’t panic, because they’re wrong.  Since President Obama decided not to fight for a single payer plan or even for the public option, healthcare is still in the deadly clutches of the insurance companies.  Even if the Republicans candidates were right, they have some nerve even making the argument.  While they all criticize government run healthcare and Medicare, as members of Congress they took full advantage of the gold plated healthcare insurance provided by the United States government.  What the Republicans are really saying is that government run healthcare is fine for them but too good for working families."

Can Ryan Plan Destroy the GOP?

"The Paul Ryan-authored budget approved by the House on Thursday has zero chance of being enacted, thanks to Democratic control of the Senate and White House.  But there is a 100 percent chance that it will feature prominently in Democratic campaign ads and talking points from now through the November election."

"This is a potential problem for Republicans, since a major component of the plan is a radical overhaul of Medicare, one of the most popular government programs.  Ryan’s budget also calls for steep tax reductions that would disproportionately benefit the affluent and would potentially cut deeply into the social safety net.  Just like the Medicare voucher plan that Ryan proposed and House Republicans lined up behind last year, it is a document that Democrats are itching to run against this fall, and to which they hope to tie every Republican candidate.  Republicans, obviously, are well aware of this. Many of them don’t care."

It's charming to think that Republicans voting to kill Medicare might simple "have no choice."  I don't buy it!  Get some courage.

AARP & Social Security

"AARP, the most powerful lobby for senior citizens, is committed to keeping Social Security out of any deficit debate going on in Washington, a top official told The Huffington Post.  Three progressive organizations -- Social Security Works, Credo Action and the blog -- launched campaigns aimed at pressuring AARP to stand up for Social Security after HuffPost reported that the elderly lobby was planning to host a high-level 'salon-style conversation' with deficit hawks and advocates of cutting Social Security.  Tens of thousands -- including thousands of AARP members -- signed petitions urging AARP not to support benefit cuts."

"[AARP's top lobbyist, Nancy] LeaMond said that the group's recently organized national tour called You've Earned A Say is a way to give members a chance to let AARP know how they feel about Social Security and Medicare."

A Wrinkle

"The individual insurance requirement that the Supreme Court is reviewing isn't the first federal mandate involving health care.  There's a Medicare payroll tax on workers and employers, for example, and a requirement that hospitals provide free emergency services to indigents.  Health care is full of government dictates, some arguably more intrusive than President Barack Obama's overhaul law.  It's a wrinkle that has caught the attention of the justices."

For Your Information