Republican whisperer Robert Costa explained in the Washington Post why the budget the President released today won’t matter much this year (others disagree). Included in this analysis was a rather stunning bit about House Republicans preparing a budget that will turn Medicare into a voucher program and make cuts to Medicaid and Head Start:
House Republicans are drafting a budget that ignores Obama’s request for more money for education and whatnot. Later this month, Ryan will put out his latest blueprint, which will not only press the case for using vouchers for Medicare benefits, but is also likely to propose sharp cuts to Head Start and Medicaid.
Yes, that’s the exact same budget that caused Paul Ryan to be such a drag on the Romney/Ryan ticket. The budget that the nuns protested. The budget Ryan couldn’t balance back then, and couldn’t even do the math on. Paul Ryan is staying true to being the Poverty Creator that my colleague Rmuse wrote about yesterday.
While Republican leadership is making a big effort to mask the tea crazy this election year by publicly stating that they support sanctions against Putin and refusing to go down on the SS GOP Debt Ceiling Disaster again, they are still busy appeasing the base. This budget is an example of how they plan to play to the base while edging their way out of the crazy corner for public relations purposes.
What is hard to understand, however, is how a play like announcing that House Republicans want to turn Medicare into a voucher program is going to help them in Senate races. And no matter what Fact Check says, turning a social safety program into a voucher program does kill the part of the program where it’s a social safety net, thereby effectively changing the entire meaning of “Medicare”, while still calling it “Medicare”. It’s not Medicare if you have to use vouchers that may or may not cover costs.
Theodore Marmor at Yale University wrote about this issue when Ryan proposed this same idea while running with Mitt Romney, and he concluded it would not work. “Medicare’s guarantee of affordable health care and ask future retirees to buy private insurance plans with limited vouchers that would cover less of rising costs as time goes on.”
If you recall, the non-partisan CBO was not impressed either, and pointed out that the Ryan voucher concept would result in rising costs for older Americans. People would have higher out of pocket expenses even as their medical bills escalated. The bottom line is that the Republican plan “saves” money by shifting the burden of pay onto seniors, and this means that they no longer have the guarantee of Medicare. By any logic, this fundamentally changes Medicare enough to call it killed, as the entire purpose was to provide a safety net.
Sure, picking on the vulnerable works for Republicans running in gerrymandered districts in the House, but it’s also easy for Democrats to seize on this as the Republican agenda (which it clearly is) and then run against this agenda, as revealed in the only chamber where the GOP has the majority. Democrats could easily use this budget to stamp all Republicans with the Mitt Romney brand.
“If you want your Medicare turned into a voucher program for some real death panels, vote Republican in 2014!”
I grant that no one does double speak better than this current crop of Republicans, but even these guys may not be able to overcome the alarming fear that taking away a social safety net from the people engenders. This is one of the more stupid things this House has done, and that’s saying something.
The budget released by the President reveals his values, and that’s why he said this today, “… our budget is about choices. It’s about our values. As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American. At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we’ve got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class, or if we’re going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.”
So while the President’s budget may not go anywhere due to Republicans refusing to budge off of their austerity rocks, it still serves a purpose in an election year, when people have choices to make.