More for the Pentagon; Less for Children, the Poor, and the Elderly

That’s Paul Ryan’s budget proposal:

House Republicans plan this week to propose more than $4 trillion in federal spending reductions over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare, the Budget Committee chairman said Sunday in opening a new front in the intensifying budget wars.

All of the GOP’s proposed spending cuts would come from domestic programs serving the most vulnerable Americans:

Mr. Schumer said Democrats were urging Republicans to consider reducing some of the automatic annual spending in Agriculture, Treasury and Justice Department programs to reach a target of about $33 billion in cuts rather than insisting that it all come out of what is known in budget parlance as discretionary accounts.

A Democrat involved in the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said alternative spending cuts from the White House and Senate Democrats would range up to $8 billion. But to the Democrats’ dismay, not only were Republicans resisting those cuts, they were also proposing more spending than the Pentagon wants for military and homeland security programs.

“If you just cut from domestic discretionary, you’ll have to cut things like helping students go to college; you’ll have to cut scientific research, including cancer research,” Mr. Schumer said on the ABC News program “This Week.” “These things have created millions of jobs through the years.”

Ryan’s plan would privatize Medicare for Americans under the age of 55 and give them vouchers to purchase health insurance from private companies when they reached age 65. This is essentially the way Medicare Advantage works today, and in Paul Krugman’s words, it “does nothing whatsoever to control costs.” He adds:

I’m sure that the Republicans will claim savings — but those savings will come entirely from limiting the vouchers to below the rate of rise in health care costs; in effect, they will come from denying medical care to those who can’t afford to top up their premiums.

Come and get your class warfare and massive wealth transfer:

Based on Carl Hulse’s reporting from yesterday it’s clear that Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) intends to go through with his plan to replace Medicare with vouchers to buy private health insurance, and then cut spending on the vouchers.

That’s very interesting on its own terms, and is certain to produce a lot of discussion. Naturally, part of the plan here is that Ryan is going to promise currently elderly people that they’ll get all their currently promised benefits plus that he’ll undue the Medicare cuts that were part of the Affordable Care Act. The idea here is that today’s old people—a very white group that’s also hostile to gay rights, and thus sort of predisposed to like conservative politicians—will also get to benefit from an extremely generous single-payer health care system. But younger people—a less white group that’s friendly to gay rights and thus predisposed to skepticism about conservative politicians—will get to pay the high taxes to finance old people’s generous single-payer health care system, but then we won’t get to benefit from it. This is in part in order to clear headroom in the budget so as to make gigantic tax cuts for rich people affordable.

And what about Medicaid recipients? They are completely screwed:

Low-income Medicaid beneficiaries will lose their guaranteed benefits altogether. Currently, Medicaid is jointly financed by the federal government and states, which are required to provide comprehensive health care benefits to people in poverty. Ryan’s plan turns the program into block grants for the states — states get a bunch of cash from the feds and have to make the best of it. For many states, that will mean severe benefit rollbacks.

This budget plan is many things, but one thing it isn’t is conservative. This is NOT a budget proposal that any true conservative could sign on to:

Recently Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt — a respected health care expert — described the plan this way: “Under the defined contribution approach envisaged by the Rivlin-Ryan plan, most of the risk of future health-care cost increases would be shifted onto the shoulders of Medicare beneficiaries. This feature makes the proposal radical.”

The Liberal Left-Wing Media is helping Republicans perpetrate a scam on the American people:

As House Republicans cue up their Medicare Phase-out legislation, we’re about to be treated, once again, to an example of how political actors use press cowardice to deceive the public. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, which is now the official Republican plan, phases out Medicare over 10 years. Yet you’ll be treated to numerous articles that call this a ‘reform’ or ‘overhaul’ or even ‘saving’ Medicare. But each are no better than straight outright deceptions, whether by design or ignorance.
[...]
The Ryan plan is to get rid of Medicare and in place of it give seniors a voucher to buy health care insurance from private insurers. Now, what if you can’t buy as much as insurance or as much care as you need? Well, start saving now or just too bad.

Now, by any reasonable standard, that’s getting rid of Medicare. Abolishing Medicare. Phasing it out. Whatever you want to call it. Medicare is this single payer program that guarantees seniors health care, as noted above. Ryan’s plan pushes seniors into the private markets and give them a voucher. That’s called getting rid of the program. There’s simply no ifs or caveats about. That’s not cuts or slowing of the growth. That’s abolishing the whole program. Saying anything else is a lie.

And we cannot count on Democrats to call a spade a spade:

Why on earth did the Democrat speaking for the Democrats just now on Hardball say it was “courageous” but “politically stupid” for Paul Ryan to put up a plan to abolish Medicare and other federal social programs? That’s the best he can do? “Courageous”? That’s simply amazing. If ordinary people who look forward to being able to rely on Medicare once they retire can’t even get advocates who don’t think it’s “courageous” to try to abolish Medicare, why are Democrats even in this game?

Lots more commentary at Memeorandum.

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

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