Fix Budget Problems With Medicare-For-All

(Post title changed…)

Nate Silver has a much-discussed post today in the NY Times, What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending?. Silver goes over the numbers and writes,

To clarify: all of the major categories of government spending have been increasing relative to inflation. But essentially all of the increase in spending relative to economic growth, and the potential tax base, has come from entitlement programs, and about half of that has come from health care entitlements specifically.

The growth in health care expenditures, for better or worse, is not just a government problem: private spending on health care is increasing at broadly the same rates and is eating up a larger and larger share of economic activity. It’s an immensely complicated problem, but the arithmetic is simple: if we can’t slow the rate of growth in health care expenditures, we’ll either have to raise taxes, cut other government spending or continue to run huge deficits. Or we could hope to grow our way out of the problem, but health care expenditures may be impeding private-sector growth as well.

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Politifact Kills Its Credibility

If you take a government program, change everything about it, destroy its core purpose, but keep the same name, is it the same program? Politifact.com says yes, and even goes so far as to say it is “The Lie Of The Year” to say it isn’t — because it still has the same name.
Early this year Republicans voted to privatize Medicare, ending it as a government insurance program, instead giving limited vouchers to people to use to purchase private insurance. Everything about the program would change, and because of the loss of economy-of-scale that government provides the costs to seniors would be much higher while the coverage would be lower. This would effectively end the program.
Americans were outraged by this. People love Medicare, and depend on it. And the cost-shifting these changes would bring mean that the cost to the larger economy would greatly increase. But since government wasn’t paying those costs anymore, the pressure to raise taxes on the 1% would go down.
People took up arms that Republicans were trying to end Medicare. Newspaper editorials expressed shock and outrage. Bloggers were angry. Politicians pledged to run against Republicans who voted for this plan to end Medicare.

Enter Politifact.com

Politifact.com’s About page says, “PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and its partners to help you find the truth in politics.” The look at statements, research the facts, “then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False and False.”
Politifact examined the statements that Republicans voted to “end Medicare” and decided this was a “lie” – because the program would continue to have the same name. This week Politicat doubled down on this absurd conclusion, saying that claiming the program would end is the “Lie Of The Year.”
That’s right, they say it is “The Lie Of The Year” to say that a program ends, as long as there still exists a program with the same name.

The Kicker

HOW did Politifact decide that this is the lie of the year? Digby explains, in Paul Ryan Stuffed The PolitiFact Ballot Box, that Rep. Paul Ryan rigged this by sending people to vote at Politifact. She writes,

Unfortunately, the Villagers will be gleefully using this as proof that their dreamy young idol Paul Ryan is a good guy after all but it’s probably a good idea to demand another source for anyone who cites Politifact on the veracity of any claim going forward. This will make it easier on the Republicans in the beginning, since they actually make a profit at their lying, but in the long run it will be for good. Clearly Politifact can’t tell the difference between a lie and and a fact and is subject to obvious right wing manipulation.

Richard Eskow: PolitiFiction: A ‘Lie Of The Year’ Sends Alice Back To Wonderland, “If you thought that the “aspect of Medicare” that directly pays for hospital coverage was Medicare, then apparently you are a very silly person …”

Others Weigh In

Paul Krugman: Politifact, R.I.P.: “This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare.”
Steve Benen: PolitiFact ought to be ashamed of itself: “This is simply indefensible. Claims that are factually true shouldn’t be eligible for a Lie of the Year designation.”
Jason Linkins at Huffington Post: Politifact Has Decided That A Totally True Thing Is The “Lie Of The Year,” For Some Reason
Ben Adler at The Nation: Politifact Peddles Falsehood About Ryan Plan to Privatize Medicare

But Politifact, an independent organization associated with the St. Petersburg Times, chose instead a claim that placed third in their poll, thanks to an effort by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to stuff the ballots. The only problem? The big “lie” is true. “Republicans voted to end Medicare,” by the the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other Democrats, is the winner, despite the fact that Republicans did indeed vote to end Medicare when they voted for Ryan’s budget.

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog: Politifact wins own “lie of the year” after letting Paul Ryan rig the results
Joshua Holland at AlterNet: PolitiFact, Fearing a Right-Wing Backlash, Calls Democrats’ 100% True Claim About the GOP Medicare Plan the “Lie of the Year”,

Conservatives have long excelled at working the refs — the corporate media. And this week they scored a resounding victory, as PolitiFact, the non-partisan fact-checker, dismissed the results of its readers’ poll to declare the entirely truthful statement that House Republicans voted to “end Medicare” as we know it the “lie of the year.”

Politifact.com has ended its credibility.
Full disclosure: Politifact fact-checked the claim in a post of mine that 400 people have as much wealth as half our population, which was picked up by Michael Moore for use in a speech in Wisconsin. In their article they misidentified me, misstated and just got wrong what I sent them, linked to the wrong post, but concluded that the claim is true.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Dems Should Vote For Clean Debt Limit Bill

The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today — a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any “hostage-taking” conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world’s economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.
The Debt Ceiling
The country’s “debt ceiling” has been reached. This means that the government’s authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.
If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.
WHY We Have This Debt
In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining — never mind modernizing — our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.
One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today’s massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to “starve the beast” by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government’s protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.
Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension
This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts — another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans — having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years — held the extension of benefits “hostage” saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.
Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today’s debt-ceiling fight.
The Vote Is A Trick
Today’s vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world’s economy to continue to operate.
From TPM: First Debt Limit Vote Today As GOP Looks To Divide Dems,

The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.

Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill
Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world’s economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.
Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling bill.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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NY-26 Lesson: Don’t Mess With Medicare — Or Social Security!

In 2010 Republicans and corporate front groups ran ad after ad after ad after ad claiming that Democrats had “Cut 500 billion from Medicare.” Those ads brought them the senior vote, and they took the House. Confident in their ability to “create their own reality” they came out with a plan to privatize Medicare and told the public it would save Medicare. Well, last night’s win by Kathy Hochul in the NY-26 special election — with pretty high turnout in a Republican district — shows that the American people are smarter than they look, and figured out what was what. The lesson: don’t mess with Medicare.
Soundly Defeated
Yesterday’s NY-26 Congressional election turned on Medicare and the candidate who supported Medicare won. The candidate who supported the Republican plan to privatize Medicare was soundly defeated.
House Republicans voted to change Medicare from a single-payer plan to a private-insurance voucher plan as a measure to “cut government spending.” Republicans had talked themselves into believing the public hates government as much as they do and therefore gutting it is what the public wants. Instead of working to control health care costs they just shifted those costs away from the government into “personal responsibility” land. In plain non-propagandized English personal responsibility means each of us on our own, alone, instead of all of us watching out for and taking care of each other.
The public figured it out and voted to keep the Medicare-gutter out.
American Majority
The American Majority understands what is going on. They know that our budget problems come from tax cuts, military spending and the lack of jobs. Those are the things the public wants the Congress to fix.
Where the deficits come from:

What the public wants:

Gallup Poll, January 14-16, 2011

  • 64% oppose spending cuts to Medicare.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, February 24-28, 2011

  • 54% believe it will not be necessary to cut spending on Medicare to reduce the national deficit.
  • 76% believe cutting Medicare to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally unacceptable.
  • 60% oppose turning the Medicare system into a government-issued voucher program, which would require the beneficiary to purchase private health insurance.

First Focus and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Poll, April 13-18, 2011

  • 70% oppose cuts/changes to the Medicare system as described in the House Republican Budget.
  • 49% support not reducing funds to Medicare.
  • 53% believe replacing the current Medicare program with a voucher system in which retirees will receive vouchers to use to purchase subsidized insurance from private insurance companies for those 55 or older is totally or mostly unacceptable.

CBS News/The New York Times Poll, April 15-20, 2011

  • 61% believe that Medicare is currently “worth the costs.”
  • 76% think government has the responsibility to provide health care coverage to the elderly.
  • 49% believe higher-income beneficiaries should pay more in taxes.

Bloomberg News Poll, March 4-7, 2011

  • 54% oppose replacing Medicare with a system in which government vouchers would help participants pay for their own health insurance.
  • 76% oppose reducing benefits for Medicare.

Pulse Opinion Research for The Hill Poll, April 28, 2011

  • 53% said they would oppose a reduction in Medicare benefits in order to get the deficit/debt under control.

Pew Research Poll, March 8-14, 2011

  • 65% oppose changes to Social Security as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

More recent polling shows the public has moved to an even strong support for Medicare, and will remove from office anyone who votes to cut it.
Social Security The Same
Those polls don’t just test public support for Medicare, they test support for Social Security as well. The public feels just as strongly that politicians had best keep their hands off our Social Security.

In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Social Security, which is the retirement program for the elderly?
Ohio: 16% support, 80% oppose
Missouri: 17% support, 76% oppose
Montana: 20% support, 76% oppose
Minnesota: 23% support, 72% oppose

Reality Restored
During the Bush years the idea of a “reality-based community” circulated after an article by Ron Suskind about a meeting he had with “a senior advisor to Bush.” In the article he described how the aide scoffed at people who bother with reality:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Republicans and their corporate money tried to create a reality that let them gut Medicare without the public rising up to do something about it. It didn’t work.
Do The Right Thing
Well, reality is coming back. The public is figuring things out. Politicians should learn the lesson of NY-26: don’t mess with Medicare — or Social Security. To fix the deficit fix the causes of the deficit: invest in jobs through maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, restore top tax rates to where they were before we had huge deficits and, by the way, the Soviet Union is long gone so cut military spending back to maybe only twice our nearest potential competitor.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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A Medicare Phase-Out By Any Other Name Still Stinks

The Republicans voted to phase out Medicare and use the money for even more tax cuts for the rich. The public found out and turned out. So now they are coming up with new ways to mask the same thing. They call them “triggers,” “across-the-board cuts” and “spending caps” but these are all really just about cutting Medicare and Social Security and education and giving more and more tax cuts to the rich. Please don’t be fooled. And please get active and let them know you do not like what they are up to.
The “Ryan Plan” To Phase Out Medicare
A Republican named Paul Ryan came up with a plan to phase out Medicare and use the money to give even more tax cuts to the rich. Hence the name “Ryan Plan.” The plan replaces Medicare with a “premium support” voucher that covers some of the cost of insurance, (as if an ill 80-year-old can get insurance at all. The trick was to start the phase-out in 10 years, hoping people won’t notice.
While this phase-out of Medicare cuts “government spending” it just shifts that cost to you and me, and actually dramatically increases the overall costs. The Center for Economic and Policy Research calculates that it adds $7 in individual costs (you and me) for every $1 it cuts in “government spending.” But the mask that it cuts “government spending” gives them cover for even more tax cuts at the top.
Town Hall Anger
Last week every Republican in the House (save for a few) voted to say, “Yes, let’s do this.” Then they went home and met with constituents at town hall meetings, and were surprised to learn that regular people are smarter than they thought they were. They thought they could just slip this past people, under the cover of deficit hysteria. Instead people shows up at town hall meetings demanding answers. And they were not happy about what the Republicans were doing.


So now, returning from exposure to the unwashed masses they are saturating the airwaves with corporate-funded propaganda, ads with soothing voices telling us how good for us the Republican plan to get rid of Medicare will be. And they are working on new plans to do the same thing, but to make it less obvious what they are up to. “Triggers. “Caps.” “Across-the-board cuts (that leave out military and cut taxes at the top.)” Etc.
The Polls
Poll after poll after poll after poll shows that the public understands where the deficits came from — tax cuts for the rich, huge increases in military spending and the costs of the recession — and wants their government to fix these causes of the deficit. But the people are not in control of the government, the powerful few who own the giant corporations are, so the government keeps coming back again and again with schemes to cut the things government does for We, the People and use the savings to cut taxes on the wealthy and the corporations.
Demand The Details
Do not accept any plan that does not detail specifically what they are doing to fix the problems. Any plan that does not clearly raise taxes on the rich, cut the military spending and provide jobs and a solid economic foundation for the future by investing in infrastructure and alternative energy is not addressing the problems. (The People’s Budget is a plan that does these things.)
These are the things that the public is demanding. This is why the powerful forces in control of the government keep coming up with shadowy detail-free schemes like “triggers” and “spending caps.” They are trying to mask tax cuts for the rich and cuts in the things We, the People do for each other like Medicare, Social Security and education.
Get Angry
We are bombarded with scheme after scheme to take away what is ours, so that a wealthy few can have even more. They have plan after plan. Here is comedian Lee Camp explaining that “Evil People Have Plans“:

Don’t just take it, foil their plans. React. Get angry.
And then:
Get Active
Get out there and get your voice heard. Call your member of Congress and both senators. Show up at town hall meetings and demonstrations and protests. Sign up to be on mailing lists of organizations like Campaign for America’s Future, MoveOn, Srengthen Social Security and Don’t Make Us Work Till We Die!, Credo Action, Coalition on Human Needs, US Uncut, On May 12, Campaign for Community Change, Working America and others who are working to fight back. Join Up.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Republicans Hearing Citizen Backlash At Town Halls – Actions You Can Take

m4s0n501

Note – see action updates below.
Members of Congress are holding local town hall meetings now and into next week, and Republicans are hearing from constituents angry that they voted to privatize Medicare to pay for even more tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
Think Progress has the story: More Republican Congressmen Face Town Hall Backlash Over Tax Breaks For Wealthy And Medicare Privatization,

Earlier this week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) held town halls across his district to defend his budget’s plan to end Medicare and extend tax cuts for the wealthy. During a stop in Milton, WI Ryan’s constituents made their feelings apparent, booing down the … congressman when he defended tax breaks for the rich… Yesterday, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) received the same hostile reception from his constituents for voting to end Medicare.
This town hall backlash is now spreading to other districts across the country. As Huffington Post reports, freshmen Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Charlie Bass (R-NH) got an earful from their constituents for voting in favor of the Republican budget this month. During a Buffalo Grove, IL town hall, Dold caught a lot of flack for supporting corporate tax breaks and voting to end Medicare: …

Please go read the rest. And click this link to find out if your member of Congress is holding a local town hall meeting this weekend or next week!
And if you can get video or audio recordings of citizen reaction to the Republican votes please post them to YouTube and let me know!!
Here is Ryan being boo’ed by constituents:

Here is Barletta:

Update — ACTIONS
Click this link to find out if your member of Congress is holding a town hall meeting this weekend or next week, and attend! Ask questions and demand answers
MoveOn has an action page where you can locate your representative’s local office, asking you to drop by. Note that this is different from attending a town hall meeting. Here is what MoveOn is saying on the page:

Drop by and tell your Representative:

Eliminating Medicare is unacceptable!

Congressional Republicans just voted to eliminate Medicare for anyone under 55. It’s time the Republicans hear from us, loud and clear: voting to end Medicare is completely unacceptable and we will hold you accountable.
No need to RSVP. Just follow the instructions below and drop by with other MoveOn members at 12 noon on Thursday, or any other time during business hours this week.

Click through for the rest at the MoveOn page
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Republicans Vote For Plan To Privatize Medicare

House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama,

n a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly.
The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans.

It’s A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy — rule by the super-rich and big corporations — with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.
Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way — that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

Centrist Dem Reaction To ‘Sicko’ Movie: Appease The Corporations

Michael Moore’s movie ‘Sicko’ documenting America’s health insurance crisis is likely to incite strong grassroots demand for a “single-payer” Medicare-For-All type of solution. So the Washington consultants/appeasers are at it again.
From the article, ‘Sicko’ leaves top Democrats ill at ease

Stoking the passions of rank-and-file Democrats for a government takeover of the healthcare system amounts to political folly, respond some liberal veterans of Washington’s healthcare battles.
“To presume that the private sector is going to sit idly by to see the destruction of private coverage I think is a misreading of reality,” … “I think the presidential candidates understand that if healthcare reform is going to have a chance of success, it will require bipartisanship and a balance of public and private coverage.”

This is what I call the “Afraid Rush Limbaugh Will Say Something Bad About You” syndrome. Clue: He will anyway.
Whatever plan you propose, here is what will happen: the health insurance companies WILL oppose your plan, no matter what the plan is.

Conventional Wisdom thinking is that you have to include private insurance companies in any plan, or they’ll put so much money and effort into opposing your plan – and you – that nothing can pass. In the 90’s the Clinton administration offered a comprehensive health care plan that involved private insurers instead of a “Medicare-For-All”-style national health plan, hoping to ward off industry opposition. … And of course the private insurance companies did oppose the Clinton plan anyway, putting so much money into opposing it that it never even came up for a vote.
.. So here is some news for Democrats who are offering health care plans that offer tribute to private insurance companies: They are going to oppose your plan.

The logic seems to be that if we appease them, they will compromise. This ignores the reality – they want it all.
“Medicare For All” is simple to understand and implement. On this subject Ezra Klein wrote,

That’s why Medicare-for-All is such a great banner. Medicare happens to be a very good, though deeply underfunded program. It keeps costs down better than the private sector, it enjoys sky-high satisfaction ratings from those on it, its administrative costs are dirt cheap, and so forth. … It’s just normal health care that the government pays for. Simple as that.
Better yet, Republicans can’t demonize the idea because it already exists and everybody’s parents and grandparents use it.

And if companies complain about all the jobs that will be lost – what they are saying is that the private sector is less efficient than a government solution. Medicare’s overhead is a fraction of the insurance companies.
It is time. It’s simple. Let’s expand Medicare to cover everyone.