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Posted by on Apr 16, 2011 in Economy, Health, Law, Politics, Society | 0 comments

Courage, Cruelty, and Civility

Paul Krugman notices a shift in media spin regarding Paul Ryan’s Medicare and Medicaid-dismantling budget plan:

At the beginning of last week, the commentariat was in raptures over the Serious, Courageous, Game-Changing Ryan plan. But now that the plan has been exposed as the cruel nonsense it is, what we’re hearing a lot about is the need for more civility in the discourse. President Obama did a bad thing by calling cruel nonsense cruel nonsense; he hurt Republican feelings, and how can we have a deal when the GOP is feeling insulted? What we need is personal outreach; let’s do lunch!

James Fallows has a clarifying bit of commentary on the argument by Ryan supporters that phasing out Medicare will force Americans to be more cost-conscious (or, in the less honest version, that phasing out Medicare will give Americans more freedom and choice to be cost-conscious). Objections to this argument focus mostly on its veracity — and there’s nothing wrong with that fact-based argument: it’s true, and I’ve made it myself, many times. But Fallows objects on the basis of morality; i.e., regardless of whether such a policy outcome is fact-based, it is immoral (emphasis is mine):

… Why is the savings rate so unbelievably high in China — as much as 50 percent of the GDP? There are many reasons, crucially including exchange-rate policy. But a very powerful individual motivator is each family’s knowledge that there is no Medicare-like system for their older members. Health care is on cash-payment basis there, and so every family must save like crazy against the risk that the parents or grandparents will require very expensive late-in-life care. More savings would be good for America, but that’s not the right way to induce them. It’s hard to believe that the Republicans will seriously embrace a plan to undo Medicare.

As TMV’s Joe Windish remarked (in different form for syntactical reasons)  after quoting that same final sentence from Fallows’ article: No, it’s not.