Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TIME GOES BY | Note to Elder Republicans: Suckers!

by Ronni Bennett

In the 2010 midterm elections, elders voted Republican 58 to 39 percent. As Paul Krugman said on his blog Monday:
”Oh, and for all those older Americans who voted GOP last year because those nasty Democrats were going to cut Medicare, I have just one word: suckers!”
No kidding.
Yesterday, chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, presented his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012. It is, basically, a blueprint to destroy Medicare and Medicaid.
Oh, and there is this stunner: a cut in the top income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 35 percent to 25 percent.
But back to Medicaid and Medicare. Here is a short version of Ryan's plan as it affects these two programs:
Medicaid would be eliminated by changing it into a block grant program without federal guidelines that would allow states to spend the lump sum grants as they choose. Oh, yeah, that will work out well for poor people.
Medicare under this plan would be privatized. Beginning in 2021, the current program would be replaced with a federal voucher system under which elders would purchase health coverage on the open market.
Oh, sure - try to find an insurance company when you're old and sick. At 64 and healthy, I couldn't find coverage at any price so I lived on a wing and a prayer until I qualified for Medicare. Had I been hit by a truck or had a serious illness during that time, I now would be among the elder bankruptcy statistics.
And get this about the Ryan Medicare plan, the vouchers are designed NOT to keep up with expected increases in health care costs and, therefore, premiums would quickly grow far beyond the amount of the vouchers leaving elders under-insured or without coverage at all.
(If you want more details and commentary on these plans, just google “paul ryan budget proposal.” There are already a zillion stories.)
Keep in mind that these changes would affect only people 54 and younger. (For a frightening take on this generational divide-and-conquer gambit, check out Matt Yglesias.)
Paul Ryan's draconian proposal has almost no chance of getting anywhere in Congress. It is so extreme that it makes the Simpson/Bowles plan look almost progressive - and that is the real danger: Stating the unthinkable moves the starting point of the debate much further to the right.
If Medicaid and Medicare are substantially destroyed, it will be all those elder Republican voters who sentenced their own children and grandchildren to an old age of poverty, sickness and earlier death.
Krugman, I think, gets it wrong about “suckers.” It seems to me that for those 65 and older Republican voters, it was more a matter of, I've got mine and screw you, my child. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be an old person.
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