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April 5th, 2011

If reports going around are accurate, then the GOP may finally be making a huge blunder that could cost them dearly in 2012: they are planning to dismantle Medicare. Or, more precisely, to turn it into something resembling the health care reform Obama and the Democrats set up.

The proposal would do away with (for everyone presently under 55 years of age) the current single payer government system for senior medical care and replace it with a program whereby seniors would choose private health insurance coverage from a menu of approved private health insurers. The government would subsidize the program by giving seniors a voucher to be used in purchasing coverage, the amount of such payment to be defined according to need.

The article goes on to note that the plan would actually be weaker than what Obama got passed, but that’s a side point at best. The main point is, they are pulling a Bush–they seem to be planning to firmly grasp a third-rail issue. One can only assume it is blind arrogance and a sense of invulnerability that allows them to think that this is a good idea.

Apparently they forgot what happened in 2005, when Bush went on his “Bamboozlepalooza” tour, trying to sell the American public on the idea of privatizing social security. It not only fell flat, but likely was a major factor contributing to further erosion of Republican power, leading to the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.

Now, just months after taking the House back, they seem to think they are indestructible again. I mean, seriously, do away with Medicare? Do they really think that voters in their late 40s and early 50’s, now looking forward to getting on Medicare, will sit still for it to be yanked away from them? Do they think that those over 55 won’t see this as an encroachment, a threat that their own Medicare programs will be next on the GOP hit list?

And let’s not forget that the Tea Party faithful, the very same people who were flooding Democratic town halls at the behest of the Republicans, were furious at the suggestion made by Republicans that Democrats were going to fund health care reform at the expense of Medicare. Ergo the self-contradicting demands of “no socialized medicine, and don’t you dare touch our Medicare!”

Seriously, if these reports are accurate and the GOP truly plans to dismantle Medicare, they must be insane. Which, of course, you probably know I have long believed is likely the case.

Apparently, they will try to sell it as “reform” which will save up to $4 trillion. They seem to think that people will buy that, and be enticed by the prospect of slashing spending. Doubtless they will soon start pitching the line that Medicare is unsustainable and this will actually save it.

The thing is, people won’t buy it. The Republicans will find themselves in the same place they put Democrats in with health care reform: trying to justify an obscure promise of future benefit to a group of people fearful of losing what they have. People will far sooner believe that something bad is coming than hope that something good will come instead. The GOP would, in essence, be turning its own favored tactic on itself.

What surprises me is the idea that Republicans don’t see this. After all, this has been their chief weapon to gain power and beat Democrats with over the past decade.

To this potential opportunity to galvanize opposition to the GOP in general, add recent demographic studies showing likely increased minority influence in many states helping Obama and the Democrats.

I can only hope that the Republicans remain clueless, and, like Bush in 2005, stick to this plan. The only danger is that the Democrats, in their usual stupid, weak-kneed manner, fearing any slight possibility of disadvantage, will react by caving in before there is any time for the public to react–unfortunately, a very real possibility. Another possibility is that these reports reflect a simple trial balloon, or perhaps Republicans will catch on to their error very soon.

But if this is a mainstream right-wing plan, and if (hoping against hope) the Democrats don’t cave instantly, and if the Republicans are going to boldly campaign for this plan to its foreseeable end–then we could see Democrats actually make gains against Republicans next year instead of losing the Senate as many feel is now possible.

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  1. Troy
    April 5th, 2011 at 05:30 | #1

    Good thing I only have ~$16,000 paid into the system I guess.

    It is true that Medicare as-is needs changing.

    The US population pyramid is a daunting thing, with nearly 50 million Americans — the peak of the baby boom — aged 45-55 now.

    America’s wage earners can’t support that upcoming cost burden on only 3% of wages. I don’t know how much medicare has to be increased, but it’s probably +2% or so.

    Plus social security needs to be increased, not much maybe but +1~2% starting in 2020 and another +1~2% in 2030.

    That will raise the New Deal stuff from ~1/6th of income to ~1/5th. Then there’s the budget deficit. Maybe another +5% is necessary here, and that will raise tax levels to ~1/4th too. ~50% tax level at the Federal level!

    Then we have another ~10% state and 5% local, and we’re looking at 2/3rds of our incomes going to taxes???

    Not surprising if government is spending $6T+ a year. . . that’s over $50,000 per household.

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