Monday, April 04, 2011


Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans, as you know, want to gut Medicare and Medicaid:

Republicans will present this week a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than $4 trillion from federal spending projected over the next decade and transform the Medicare health program for the elderly...

The plan would essentially end Medicare....

Mr. Ryan's proposal would apply to those currently under the age of 55, and for those Americans would convert Medicare into a "premium support" system. Participants from that group would choose from an array of private insurance plans when they reach 65 and become eligible, and the government would pay about the first $15,000 in premiums. Those who are poorer or less healthy would receive bigger payments than others....

Democrats say the GOP plan will leave millions exposed to financial risks. The Medicare premium subsidies would grow more slowly than health costs, they say, so seniors would end up with less coverage....

Steve Benen suspects Republicans have overreached; Atrios isn't so sure:

Cuts won't hurt the Republicans unless someone else points out that the cuts are, you know, bad.

On issue after issue in recent years, Democrats have been too timid and/or sold out to stand up for traditional Democratic principles -- but they did fight off Social Security privatization at the beginning of George W. Bush's second term. And if they wimp out, I think the most likely group to get the word out is going to the AARP.

Those of us who are of a certain age started getting solicitations from AARP as we were about to turn fifty; a hell of a lot of Americans sign up just for the coupons and discounts, and then get all the mailings. Back in the fall, AARP made its position clear on the proposal with the Orwellian name, when it was being proposed by a panel led by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici:

AARP Executive Vice President John Rother said his group would oppose premium support. Of the overall task force report, he said it "raises lots of questions because of how it shifts more costs to individuals."

This isn't new -- as far back as 2003, AARP's Republican CEO, Bill Novelli, was opposing "premium support," even though the group also supported the Bush prescription drug plan.

AARP support for that Bush plan ticked off Democrats. AARP support for the Obama health care plan ticked off Republicans. It's not surprising that Republicans are going after AARP just as this budget plan is being introduced, but AARP is kind of a Bigfoot -- it looks out for its own self-interest and its members' interests as it sees them, and (unlike Democrats) the group seems capable of taking heat and persisting. I'm not trying to nominate these folks for sainthood, but I do think they'll speak up.

Also, I've got to add that putting the diving line at age 55 may have been a political mistake -- we gainfully employed fiftysomethings tend to be terrified as it is that we're going to be downsized and never, ever find work again, simply because of our age; we're not like really young workers, who may think they're going to kick the world's ass and retire rich by 45. We're an anxious lot already, we don't need any more uncertainty, and we're not going to just shrug this off.

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