On Morning Joe Monday morning, the panel were discussing how the country needs to sacrifice a bit more, so naturally, we got a list of things that were draining our country dry which centered on the social safety net and how it’s not enough to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes. Frank Bruni and Steve Schmidt joined the panel.
Joe Scarborough misinformed the public by saying that he was told that for the fiscal year that just ended, “Every penny the government got paid for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt, and nothing else. Everything else we pay for, we borrow from the Chinese or just go deeper in debt.”
But what did Joe leave out? Only 20% of our budget — defense spending. How Republican of him to leave that off of the table.
The truth is Social Security is paid for by its own tax. It does not add one penny to the deficit.
The panel seemed to agree that the country needs to make sacrifices and there aren’t any leaders who are calling for people to man up. No one but Mika mentioned that the people they’re talking about have been decimated by the Bush economy. They have already sacrificed the values of their homes, their savings and investments were destroyed in the market crash of 2008, and America is still struggling to add back the jobs lost due to the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
The narrative put forth here that all of the politicians in Washington hate each other and won’t work together and won’t call for sacrifice (read: cuts to Medicare) because they’re afraid Democrats will demagogue against them was nothing but an attempt to smear both parties with the obstructionism of the Republican Party in the House and the bad polling numbers they’ve earned, and to justify and falsely equate the Romney Medicare cuts with the President’s Medicare cuts.
To clarify, Medicare will remain solvent until 2024. Medicare is not currently broke. The doctors bills and prescription drug coverage portion of Medicare is covered by revenues (recall that it was Republican George W. Bush who created the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that wasn’t paid for), whereas the hospital coverage of Medicare is funded through a payroll tax, much like Social Security. The issue is how to sustain that part of Medicare with a growing senior population.
The Romney campaign ad claiming Obama stole from Medicare to fund ObamaCare is not true. The ACA doesn’t take a dime from Medicare. It makes cuts to over payments resulting from (and now you know why Republicans are really screaming) Medicare Advantage, the attempt to privatize Medicare, which has been costly and inefficient. Privatization is basically the thinking behind the Romney Ryan Medicare plan. The ACA also makes cuts to hospital reimbursements, as negotiated with the hospital industry (and now you know why ObamaCare was demonized as a takeover — all of these “sacrifice” lovers didn’t want to take any hits – read less government money – for their industry).
Both sides proposed cutting spending to Medicare, but the Obama plan calls for reductions in the growth of payments to hospitals while the Romney plan leaves it up to Congress to pick what to cut. There are no legal restrictions on what they can cut in the Romney plan.
The public was then warned about how Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security are draining America dry. They say that raising taxes on the rich won’t make things alright and making only cuts won’t work. They seem to believe that the middle class and poor need to be willing to make sacrifices.
The constant focus on Medicare and Social Security and sacrifices needed from more than just the people at the top (something we haven’t tried yet, by the way) seemed like a round about argument for the Romney Ryan tax plan of hitting the middle class, though that wasn’t directly brought up. The consensus was that none of the politicians are willing to make any sacrifices or be grown ups, and yet time and time again, we saw Democrats including Obama reaching across the aisle to incorporate Republican ideas into their legislation, only to be obstructed by those same Republicans for political reasons.
I’m calling bs on this narrative. It’s an over-simplified version of both sides do it that lets Republicans off the hook for their admitted goal of making Obama a one term president to the detriment of the country. Obama has called for sacrifices, by the way. It’s just that these folks on this panel don’t like his ideas because they hit the top 1% and the oil company subsidies.
It’s almost laughable to suggest that these things “aren’t enough” when they have not been tried. Certainly, if we were not in a recession, we might try raising taxes on everyone because we do have a deficit that needs to be addressed, but economists agree that raising taxes on the middle class would be a bad thing in a recession because they would spend less and that would harm our recovery. This is the same reason we fund unemployment during a recession, aside from perhaps caring if our neighbors have a roof over their heads. It’s math.
The President isn’t failing to call for responsibility, and the folks he’s calling to account need to stop whining about how the middle class is expecting so much and needs to start making sacrifices. Clearly, these folks haven’t been in the middle class for a long time.
Economists agree that in a recession, you stimulate the economy and focus on job growth first. Once that’s in hand, then you deal with the deficit. Perhaps the Morning Joe panel would like to address how childish it is that the Republicans refused to vote yes on any jobs bill coming from this President, let alone produce one of their own that wasn’t a cover for more tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, and a pipeline that wouldn’t bring any long term jobs to Americans.
What I heard in this panel was a justification for Romney’s 47% comments. All the people on these “entitlement” programs need to sacrifice more, taxing the rich won’t get it done, and people need to start making sacrifices. This was only made worse when Tom Brokaw said in another segment of the show that Medicare recipients just wanted their check. Medicare recipients don’t get a check, but maybe Brokaw doesn’t know that because he doesn’t need it. He is a member of the union AFTRA, which is now a part of SAG. As a SAG member myself, I can attest to the great healthcare benefits our union negotiates for its members.
The Morning Joe panel might try walking a mile in the shoes of the people they claim aren’t making any sacrifices before they really embarrass themselves pushing a narrative that clearly is meant to justify Romney’s contempt for the American people who won’t take responsibility for themselves. Or maybe we can just try raising taxes on the top 1% first and cutting oil subsidies and getting a jobs bill passed and see where that lands us. In the meantime, Joe can comfort himself with the words of Dick Cheney, “Deficits don’t matter.”
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.