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."

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