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Hullabaloo


Saturday, September 29, 2012

 
The Village Fix in in on Cutting Medicare

by David Atkins

Careful watchers of Hardball yesterday should have picked up on something remarkable and terrifying from Howard Fineman. Listen closely starting at the 2-minute mark:

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FINEMAN: "And if we're going to be cutting Medicare at some point, which I think most voters understand, I thin kright now looking at these alternatives they'd rather have a Democrat they know than a Republican who never supported the program to begin with."
Do most voters really "understand" that we're going to be cutting Medicare? Or has the Village decided that we're going to cut Medicare, and that it's going to happen no matter what the American people actually want?

Let's be clear on two things: first, from a policy stand there is no need for any cuts to Medicare. What is needed is universal insurance so that the wasteful profit motive is removed from the healthcare system. But granted the political impossibility of accomplishing that, if Medicare does become insolvent then the gradual cuts will take place automatically--no need to frontload them in advance with austerity measures. If one does want to be proactive as one should, then the program can be made solvent by slightly raising the maximum cap on which Medicare taxes are assessed. If all else fails, an alternate funding stream could be developed. There are numerous possibilities that do not involve cutting Medicare. To continue funding corporate welfare, wasteful wars and tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy while telling voters that Grandma should eat cat food is insane and immoral.

But second, Fineman is disastrously wrong on the politics. For a Democrat to cut Medicare would be politically disastrous.

If the Congress and the President take up Simpson-Bowles during the lame duck session or the new year and enact minor tip money tax increases for the wealthy in exchange for cuts to the most vulnerable, a majority of Republicans will oppose the deal. Democrats will be left holding the bag, insisting on being the "bipartisan adults in the room."

Voters will hate the deal. Republicans will run successfully against Democrats for the next twenty years, accusing us of cutting Medicare and raising taxes. And when Republicans easily win that argument and gain Executive and Legislative power, President Christie and Speaker Ryan will voucherize Medicare, restore the funding for current seniors, and act as the cavalry riding to America's and Medicare's rescue.

The Village Consensus is awful, immoral policy. It's also suicidal politics. And Howard Fineman and friends appear to be walking into it with open eyes and open arms.


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