Wingnut pundits cheer: GOP will fix Medicare by screwing your kids (but forget to mention screwing you) | Wis.Community

Wingnut pundits cheer: GOP will fix Medicare by screwing your kids (but forget to mention screwing you)

[img_assist|nid=43830|title=Little people|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=151|height=113]This morning's Milwaukee Journal sentinel offers up two conservative columnists -- one local, one syndicated -- who reassure current recipients and seniors over 55 that their Medicare benefits won't be affected if Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to turn the program into a private insurance system using vouchers is enacted.

Why? Well, because, according to columnists Jonah Goldberg and Patrick McIlheran, the voucher system would only affect prospective Medicare recipients now 55 years of age and younger. Those Americans would get vouchers to shop private health insurance plans, which as we all know are so very inexpensive and understandable. Right? Not right. Nor do the two columnists address the question of how private insurance plans -- which have hugely more overhead than current Medicare -- could possibly save anybody money without drastically cutting services.

Not to worry, say the two columnists shilling for Ryan. They argue older Americans wouldn't see anything change under his budget plan. Excepting (and this is something they don't acknowledge), the eventual destruction of Medicare as we now know it. 

On a broader track, Rep. Ryan's new budget "rescue" plan (he and Gov. Scott Walker come from the same state, and the same state of mind) would make drastic cuts in all domestic social programs, badly affecting lower- and middle-income Americans so Republicans have some of the revenue they'll need to partially offset huge new tax cuts, which Ryan's plan would enact for wealthy people. This is called raising the deficit, not fixing it like Ryan promises. It's also called kicking the can down the road, and making your offspring pick up today's bills later, something conservatives profess to hate but seem to love enacting.

While the two columnists avoided addressing the pesky downside of privatizing Medicare, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, in his own syndicated column, waded right in. Krugman's column sometimes appears in the Journal Sentinel, which didn't bother to print these words in opposition to Goldberg and its house wingnut:

The point here is that privatizing Medicare does nothing, in itself, to limit health-care costs. In fact, it almost surely raises them by adding a layer of middlemen. Yet the House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spending as a percentage of GDP despite an aging population and rising health care costs.

The only way that can happen is if those vouchers are worth much less than the cost of health insurance. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030, the value of a voucher would cover only a third of the cost of a private insurance policy equivalent to Medicare as we know it. 

So the plan would deprive many, and probably most, seniors of adequate health care.

Our current deficits are in part due to temprarly revenue declines because of the economic meltdown, and in part because of continuing, unfunded mandates, like three Mideast wars and the Medicare Part D program that George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans pushed through. The Part D program, which added a privatized drug prescription benefit to public Medicare, is projected to have net expenditures between 2009 and 2018 of $727.3 billion. None of this spending has ever been paid for. 

Indeed, it's obvious five years after its enactment that deficit-driving Medicare D was merely another tool Republicans have been using to wedge open successful and popular social programs until they are torn asunder fiscally. 

Krugman again:

According to the budget office, which analyzed the plan using assumptions dictated by House Republicans, the [Ryan] proposal calls for spending on items other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — but including defense — to fall from 12 percent of GDP last year to 6 percent of GDP in 2022, and just 3.5 percent of GDP in the long run.

That last number is less than we currently spend on defense alone; it’s not much bigger than federal spending when Calvin Coolidge was president, and the United States, among other things, had only a tiny military establishment. How could such a drastic shrinking of government take place without crippling essential public functions? The plan doesn’t say.

In short, the Ryan plan is rather like a bank robber stealing sack loads of cash from the vaults, then tsk-tsking you and your fellow customers for holding worthless paper. Put some of your remaining money back into that bank right now, or it will fail! Oh, and the robber plans another visit right after your new deposit.

ADDENDUM: Citizens for Tax Justice is out with a new report that makes my points more directly. Excerpt: 

New Report from CTJ: House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's Goal Is to Shrink Government, Not the Deficit

Any rational proposal to balance the federal budget would rely on a mix of spending reductions and revenue increases. But, as explained in a new CTJ report, the House Republican budget plan relies on draconian spending cuts and actually reduces revenue. 

The plan is motivated not by a desire to balance the budget but rather by the ideological goal of reducing the size of government to something that would be unrecognizable to Americans today. 

The plan’s author, House Budget Committee Chairman #366388; cursor: pointer;">Paul Ryan, is intentionally vague about his plans to overhaul the tax system. That may be because his previous attempt to explain how he would reduce the top #366388; cursor: pointer;">income tax rate to 25 percent made it clear that the result would be a big tax increase for all income groups except the richest ten percent.

 

Published

April 10, 2011 - 11:55am

Author

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