The GOP continued its bloody walk into the Medicare buzzsaw Wednesday, when 40 out of 47 Senate Republicans voted in support of the House GOP budget, and its plan to phase out and privatize the popular entitlement program.Here's the roll in case you don't believe me.
The test vote failed by a vote of 57-40. But the roll call illustrates that Medicare privatization -- along with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services -- remains the consensus position of the GOP despite the growing political backlash against them.
Ezra Klein described how the phase out would occur:
To move us to surpluses, Ryan's budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher's growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs.With no guarantee, of course, that any insurance company will actually sell the senior with the voucher the insurance he or she was given the voucher to buy. Medicare is guaranteed. Hence the phase out.
And the backlash? We read this from the AP:
They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.TPM added:
The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year's elections for president and Congress.
Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Barack Obama's Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year's elections.
To shelter GOP dissidents from the vote to privatize Medicare, but also to shore up their bona fides on the right, the Senate also held a test vote on a similarly austere alternative budget authored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out:
At first blush, the Toomey plan may seem more moderate than the Ryan budget, which the Senate also will likely consider this week. That’s because the Toomey plan does not include Chairman Ryan’s controversial proposal to replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with vouchers that would cover part of the cost of purchasing private health insurance — a provision that would raise total health care spending attributable to Medicare beneficiaries and more than double out-of-pocket costs for a typical 65-year-old beneficiary in 2022. (Neither plan proposes savings in Social Security.)Meanwhile, the CBPP has something interesting to say about the deficit:
But, in several ways, the Toomey budget is more radical than the Ryan plan. While it essentially mirrors the Ryan plan in proposing deep cuts in nondefense discretionary programs, it proposes much deeper cuts in entitlement programs other than Medicare — and relies on a rosy economic scenario and fanciful assumptions about tax collections — to claim it produces modest surpluses in 2020 and 2021 instead of the approximately $400 billion deficits in each of those years under the Ryan plan.
Some lawmakers, pundits, and others continue to say that President George W. Bush’s policies did not drive the projected federal deficits of the coming decade — that, instead, it was the policies of President Obama and Congress in 2009 and 2010. But, the fact remains: the economic downturn, President Bush’s tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years (see Figure 1).Here's Figure 1:
The events and policies that pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term were, for the most part, not of President Obama’s making. If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.So dealing with the deficit by phasing out Medicare (or cutting other entitlements) makes perfect sense to Pat Toomey and those other 39 Republican Senators. Let's make sure those millionaires and billionaires keep their Bush Era tax cuts! That'll solve this budget problem (the one that Bush caused) for sure!