Hot Air Trial Ballooning

Hot Air Trial Ballooning

by digby

This comment strikes me as a little bit hard to take at face value:

DAVID GREGORY (HOST): Senator, one point about Medicare. You say you want to put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to get at the benefits side, if you want to shore this program up, because 12 years as you say before it runs out of money?

DURBIN: I do believe there should be means testing. and those of us with higher income in retirement should pay more. That could be part of the solution. But when you talk about raising the eligibility age, there’s one key question. what happens to the early retiree? What about that gap in coverage between workplace and Medicare? How will they be covered? I listened to Republicans say we can’t wait to repeal Obamacare, and the insurance exchanges. well, where does a person turn if they are 65 years of age and the medicare eligibility age is 67? They have two years there where they may not have the best of health. They need accessible, affordable medical insurance during that period.

I have a sneaking feeling that Durbin is throwing up a smokescreen there (or he's been smoking some of that special Alan Simpson sensimilla.) He must know that the argument is that Obamacare will pick up the slack if they decide to raise the Medicare age. If he doesn't then he needs to find another line of work.

Even Mitt Romney's health care advisor, Avik Roy from the Manhattan Institute, knows that. Here's what he said on Up with Chris Hayes this morning (with Steve Kornacki subbing for Chris)

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"I have to respond to this interesting hyperbole about Medicare death sentence. If you raise the retirement age for Medicare, we have the Affordable Care Act as the backstop. Everybody under 400% poverty level is still covered with the affordable care act in place. So what we are really talking about is means testing Medicare by raising the retirement age. People who are upper income, above 400% of the poverty level won't be subsidized if they're younger retirees. It's where entitlement reform should go, to expand it into the retiree population."
(Kornacki pointed out that ACA is being challenged so it's not exactly a backstop at this point, but he let the topic drop in favor of more masturbation over tax rates.)

It sounds as if Roy and Jonathan Chait may have found the bipartisan sweet spot for Obamacare. Privatize Medicare! Now that really is a Grand Bargain. 

Before everyone gets into another tizzy about how shrill and unreasonable I'm being for taking this rumor seriously, let's have a little discussion of what a "trial balloon" is. It is, simply, a rumor that's purposefully spread during a negotiation in order to gauge the reaction. Therefore, it is important to react, not act all glib and self-assured that it could never happen. They want to know if you think this is a good idea, so if you don't you should say so. And you should say it in a shrill enough fashion that they know it's a very big deal, if you think it's a very big deal.

 Even if you think the President is adamantly opposed to cutting vital social welfare programs --- which I don't since he's said he is willing to make these "tough choices" many, many times --- he is helped in that by a shrill base rising up to counter the Boehner tea party freak show on the right. Whether you think he's got your best interest at heart or that he's trying to do a Grand Bargain, reacting "shrilly" to ideas to cut the safety net and other vital programs that affect real people is completely appropriate. This is the public part of the negotiations and it's important that they hear from you.

Now, if you think that cutting these vital programs for no good reason is a good idea, well then fine. You are well within your rights to roll your eyes at the silly people who find the whole concept of deficit reduction in a time of economic crisis to be absurd and who think that the consequence of this self-laid trap of a "fiscal cliff" should not be borne by average people who have already lost much of their accumulated wealth and are still suffering. That's fine. But if it happens and you were dismissive of those who spoke out, let's not pretend you didn't get exactly what you wanted. (And if it doesn't happen, it's not unlikely that you will have the shrill hysterics to thank for it.)