From the category archives: Presidential Politics
As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary this week it’s important to do more than just cut the cake…we must also educate and advocate. That’s because even though the American people clearly understand how vital Medicare and Medicaid are to families, too many politicians (especially those running for the GOP Presidential nod) apparently still don’t get it.
Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote today about these “Zombies Against Medicare,” including their refusal to acknowledge that all the bad things they’ve predicted about Medicare for five decades have never actually happened, Jeb Bush’s promise to end Medicare and especially the Republican Party’s never-ending quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“And then a funny thing happened: the act’s passage was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole.Right now is, in other words, a very odd time to be going on about the impossibility of preserving Medicare, a program whose finances will be strained by an aging population but no longer look disastrous. One can only guess that Mr. Bush is unaware of all this, that he’s living inside the conservative information bubble, whose impervious shield blocks all positive news about health reform.”
Medicare advocates briefed the press today on the importance of this 50th anniversary and the ongoing battle to preserve and expand the program.
“Anyone who thinks these programs aren’t under threat should just look at where the GOP presidential candidates stand on these issues. Every prediction made by opponents about these programs…from claiming 'socialism' to 'they won’t work'…have been proven wrong.” Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change
“It’s time for GOP leaders to stop threatening us with cuts and repeal, and start proposing truly bold ideas that include benefits expansion, raising the wage cap, enacting an affordable long term care program, shifting to a fully-developed consumer price index for the elderly, and negotiating drug prices. That would be a real platform for real Americans.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
As the 2015 Trustees Report release last week shows, Medicare’s health has greatly improved since health care reform was passed. Not only did the ACA provide improved benefits for seniors its long-term solvency has been extended by 13 years. Congress should be building on these reforms to improve the program rather than continuing a politically myopic and factually bankrupt quest to “save” Medicare by killing it.
We suppose we should at least give Jeb Bush brownie points for honesty since he was actually caught saying out loud what the GOP has been trying to do Medicare for years, without actually admitting it.
MSNBC first reported on Jeb Bush's comments made to a room full of Koch Brothers supporters:
"We need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits," Bush said. "But we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything."
Promising to protect current beneficiaries (because according to the standard GOP meme “greedy geezers” only care about their own Social Security and Medicare benefits not what’s left for their kids or grandkids) is a tried and true GOP strategy. Attempting to destroy Medicare piece by piece is also a strategy we’ve already seen tried by conservatives in Congress. So it’s likely Bush didn’t even realize he was making news. Vox described it best this way:
“For years now, Republicans in Congress have been unified around a plan to promise continued Medicare benefits to everyone over the age of 55 while phasing out the program for everyone else. This is the famous — or perhaps infamous — Paul Ryan plan for Medicare. But denying that this is what their plan amounts to has been an important part of the political strategy for getting it done. Except Jeb Bush messed up, and in a talk at an Americans for Prosperity event Wednesday night he said that America needs to "phase out" Medicare.
His argument is that once Medicare is phased out, the GOP can offer the 54-and-under set "something," because the alternative will be to get "nothing."
Recall that back in 2011, the GOP whined endlessly about allegations that they wanted to end Medicare, and PolitiFact dubbed the idea that the GOP wants to end Medicare their "lie of the year."
But as Jeb Bush reveals here, it was never a lie of any sort. Conservatives' preferred answer to the challenge of paying for Medicare in the future is to scrap the program, and that idea has gained wider and wider currency in GOP circles in recent years.”
Bush’s comments were chock-full of other seriously flawed assumptions which MSNBC also breaks down including:
- The “left” hasn’t done anything to help Medicare – Uhh, how about this week’s Trustees Report which confirms (yet again) an additional 13 years of Medicare solvency thanks to healthcare reform (which the GOP would repeal).
- Going door-to-door has shown him the American people support phasing out benefits - We’re not sure what doors Bush is knocking on but there’s not a national poll anywhere (legitimate or otherwise) which shows Americans support ending Medicare.
Hyperbole -- fact twisting and sheer omission -- false truths presented by “courageous truth-tellers.” None of this is really new to American politics. However, today New Jersey Governor Chris Christie deployed all of these time-worn propaganda techniques to unveil his plan to cut $1 trillion in benefits (that’s $1,000,000,000,000) from generations of Americans who will depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
He says it’s all about “fairness.” However, he proposes not a single dime of new revenue and has no problem with average Americans paying payroll taxes on all of their income while the wealthy do not.
Apparently, slashing pensions in New Jersey to preserve his no tax pledge simply isn’t enough. Now he hopes to do the same nationwide. In spite of his promise to offer the GOP Presidential primary race something new, today’s comments were merely a recitation and doubling-down on the same GOP claims that our nation can’t afford to honor its commitment to America’s workers and future retirees.
NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, sums it up this way:
“The Governor’s plan to means-test Social Security, cutting off some Americans and transitioning the program from an earned benefit to welfare has long been the goal of those who oppose social insurance programs. It seems the Governor acknowledges that his flagging Presidential campaign needed a jolt because today’s speech was far more about burnishing Governor Christie’s conservative credentials than offering new proposals that could help America’s workers and retirees. He certainly isn’t showing bold leadership by claiming we must cut middle-class benefits, while protecting tax expenditures benefiting huge corporations and the wealthy. That’s been the GOP position for a very long time. Today Governor Christie joins a long line of conservative politicians who hope to convince voters they are “courageous truth-tellers” when in truth their goal is to dismantle the very programs which have kept millions from poverty.
The majority of Americans – of all ages, no matter their political party -- opposes cutting already modest benefits and is willing to pay more to boost the program. They understand Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs nor should they be. Getting any GOP Presidential candidate to acknowledge that fact takes true political courage. But unfortunately that’s not the ‘red meat’ the GOP’s conservative base expects to hear nor the truth candidates like Governor Christie are willing to tell.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
While he claims “no one” will talk about cutting benefits like he will, the fact is, the past decade has seen numerous attacks on the programs from Presidents, Presidential commissions, Congressional “Gangs of 6” and too many legislative proposals to even list here. Senate Governor Christie is merely the latest in a growing list of GOP Presidential candidates who all promote the same “strengthen = slash” approach. They tout their protection of poorer seniors while proposing benefit cuts, cost sharing and means testing that will impact millions of poor and middle-class beneficiaries. Each candidate also follows the conservative-crafted playbook which promises current retirees (who consistently vote) will be protected from cuts, instead targeting their children and grandchildren (who aren’t thinking about retirement yet) for even smaller benefits.
Many GOP Candidates – Same Social Security & Medicare Approach
- Senator Ted Cruz supports privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into “Coupon Care”, raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs). Each of these proposals would cut benefits well below the current $1,200 average monthly benefit.
- Senator Rand Paul has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and supports allowing people to opt out of the program. He also supports raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, Social Security privatization, and raising seniors’ Medicare premiums and copayments.
- Senator Marco Rubio supports privatizing Social Security, raising the retirement age and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs). He considers current benefits “generous” and supports the GOP/Ryan budget which turns Medicare into “Coupon Care”.
None of these candidates have expressed support for lifting the payroll tax cap so that wealthy Americans pay the same rate as everyone else or proposals addressing income adequacy for millions of beneficiaries of all ages.
Now, that would be a true act of political courage.
Cuts to Social Security Will Hurt Seniors, Veterans, People with Disabilities and Children; Shackle Recovering Economy
While some in Washington may have given up on a so-called “grand bargain,” many others including the White House, have left benefit cuts to millions of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities on the budget bargaining table. Contrary to claims by Chained CPI proponents, this change to the annual COLA calculation is not a “technical tweak” but a benefit cut for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. Additionally, recent research by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, in consultation with economist Dean Baker, shows that adoption of the Chained CPI could cut $31 billion in economic output and more than 200,000 jobs nationwide.
Activists from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, NOW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Generations United, NARFE, Social Security Works and other advocacy groups converged on the White House to tell President Obama “No” to the chained CPI. Protestors with signs illustrating the negative economic impact in each of the nation’s 50 states plus Washington, D.C. rallied along Pennsylvania Avenue and were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2).
“The coalition here today is diverse, strong and unified in our opposition to Social Security benefit cuts like those that would come with the Chained CPI. Groups here today represent not just seniors but also young people, veterans, civilians, people with disabilities and middle class families. We’re all here together to say the negative impact of the Chained CPI should not be ignored or trivialized any longer. The White House and others have said this benefit cut is nothing more than a "technical tweak,"...but the truth is it would be a benefit cut imposed on the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Here's a video of activists rallying at the White House.
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