*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Over the past three-and-a-half weeks there has been a dearth of good news at a time when many Americans are wary they will never be encouraged about anything related to America ever again. Let’s face it, a big-time wrestling and reality show celebrity is heading to the White House with alt-right Nazis in tow, and accompanied by a prospective Homeland Security chief that routinely calls for armed revolution against the United States of America. Americans should be as disgusted as they are worried about the future. However, there was a bit of encouraging news on the domestic policy front that might offer seniors’ and disabled people a bit of good news and possibly put their minds to rest for the near term.
As expected on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan reiterated his six-year intent to “pursue a major overhaul of Medicare,” including privatizing the program and replacing reliable medical care with a discount coupon. It is a highly unpopular proposal, but Republicans can never be accused of legislating according to the will of the people; especially when the corporate insurance industry can profit from their “major overhaul” mindset. The term “major overhaul,” like any Republican reference to “reform,” commonly means drastic cuts to enrich a reliable campaign donor whether it is tax or domestic program cuts.
The good news is that Ryan’s big plans to eviscerate the 50-year-old popular Medicare program are not sitting well with many influential Republicans. Democrats are united against what they call the “voucherization” of Medicare and likely welcome the assistance of Republicans who comprehend that wiping out Medicare potentially means wiping out their political careers. It is not that Republicans are averse to gutting Medicare any more than any other federal programs, some of them are just nervous that they are “overshooting their electoral mandate” by changing a highly popular program that serves a major segment of their base; old white people.
For example, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said, “Save Medicare for another day. We want to begin immediately to repeal Obamacare. . . . Trying to deal with the solvency issues with Medicare at the same time falls into the category of biting off more than you can chew. It’s an important issue, it’s one I’m ready to address, but a little humility here would be in order. We can’t do everything at once, and we shouldn’t try.”
Another Republican Senator who “joins a growing list of Senate Republicans” such as Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John McCain is Maine’s Susan Collins. Collins, like many Republicans, is not enamored with the idea of being part of Ryan’s scheme to destroy Medicare. Ms. Collins told the Portland Free Press Herald:
“Suffice it to say I have a number of reservations. A complete upending of a program (Medicare) that by and large serves seniors well is not something that appeals to me.”
It also doesn’t appeal to the great majority of Americans, but that concept of the “will of the people” just doesn’t appeal to Republicans because the exist to serve special interests and lobbyists. And since dirty Don’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services wants the Medicare program eviscerated, there may be an opportunity for reasonable Republicans in the House to join those wary Senate Republicans to obstruct Ryan’s plans and protect Medicare for the near future.
On the House side, one of Paul Ryan allies and chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), said that the Medicare coupon scam is still on the Republican agenda, but that the “immediate priority is taking steps, small, in preparing for larger steps to save Medicare for the long term.”
Of course, it is natural for Republicans to lie, and Mr. Brady’s not-so-deceptive remark about “preparing for larger steps” set up Senator Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) lie and blame game. Blunt is a member of the Senate Republican leadership team and is not on board with privatizing Medicare right away. Blunt said:
“My guess is, we’ll have our hands full doing what we need to do with Obamacare. It’s fair to say that Obamacare’s done a lot of damage to Medicare. And because of that, it will necessarily become part of that discussion. But . . . I think it’d be a mistake to talk about specifics right now. We’ve got enough to do focus on first steps on Obamacare and we need to stay focused on that until we get that bill passed, and then we need to start looking at how you repair the damage done by Obamacare.”
There is no doubt that Blunt knows damn well “Obamacare” has not done any damage to Medicare. And in fact, the Affordable Care Act has strengthened Medicare and guaranteed its solvency for at least 16 years longer than if “Obamacare” had never existed; the longer “Obamacare” stays in place, the longer Medicare’s solvency is guaranteed. That is just one reason why Republicans want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act; to purposely create the “Medicare solvency issue” Paul Ryan depends on to “overhaul” the program with a coupon. Last week Ryan pledged that he was going to phase out Medicare in 2017, but he may have a tougher time than he thought and it may be Republicans who impede his efforts.
It isn’t the greatest news that Medicare’s death is likely prolonged due to some Republicans’ reluctance to punish seniors and disabled Americans. But in these darkest of times in America, any good news should be celebrated as if it is the last; because it probably is.