• The sorry state of Medicare politics

    Here’s some straight talk from Noah Kristula-Green of the FrumForum:

    In 1995, Republicans came under attack from Democrats for proposing significant cuts to Medicare. Newt Gingrich denounced his opponents for attacking his party for having the political courage to touch this third rail of politics. “Think about a party whose last stand is to frighten 85-year-olds, and you’ll understand how totally morally bankrupt the modern Democratic Party is.”

    That was 1995. Here is the title of a Heritage Foundation blog post in 2010: “Side Effects: Obamacare Spreads the Wealth by Cutting Medicare

    This is the opening sentence: “Is Granny “disposable”? Some seniors may get that impression once Obamacare kicks in.”

    Kristula-Green goes on to criticize the GOP’s Pledge for lack of any plan whatsoever for dealing with the Medicare cost crisis. He correctly points out that there are many decent right-of-center ideas the Pledge could have adopted:

    AEI promotes a plan to bring competitive pricing to Medicare which would bring some free market dynamics into the system. Applying competitive bidding just to durable medical equipment providers would also be a means to save money. Even raising the eligibility age would achieve some savings.

    So why instead, does the Pledge offer nothing? Undoubtedly the older GOP electorate has made the leadership much more cautious heading into the midterm election and they don’t want to gamble away their chance at an overwhelming victory. Republicans are now campaigning on “defending Medicare.”

    So, Kristula-Green asks, what’s the point of all the hard work we researchers put into coming up with and analyzing cost-saving ideas if policymakers are going to ignore them? He doesn’t answer, but pivots to why some think tanks feed the debate with polarizing nonsense: it’s a money maker!

    This is all just so sad. And after I weep for America I still need to justify what I do. Is anybody listening? Anybody at all? Will the serious leaders of our future please stand up? I want to talk to you … before those other guys do.

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    • Excellent points. The Republican rhetoric on Medicare is dishonest and, assuming they win, they will have to develop a budget that will include something that can be demagogued as “cutting Medicare.” Entitlement programs are growing too fast but unfortunately, the voters don’t necessarily reward honesty, so politicians oblige them by telling them what they want to hear. It is a real weakness in a democracy.