Along with not being able to control their fear/loathing of women, wingnuts also are decidedly knee-jerk when it comes to government social programs. So it is that some Republican Senators (Rand Paul, LIndsey Graham, Jim DeMint, and Mike Lee) have trotted out a new plan to “save” Medicare by destroying it.
Dana Milbank writes,
If you’re thinking of answering this in the affirmative, you might want to pause long enough to learn what transpired on the third floor of the Capitol on Thursday. There, four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare — “sunset” was their pseudo-verb — even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement. …
… For years, Republicans have insisted that they would not end Medicare as we know it and that any changes to the program would not affect those in or near retirement. In the span of 20 minutes Thursday, they jettisoned both promises.
And in an election year, too, although I don’t know if any of these four is up for re-election this year. Rand Paul isn’t, of course.
DeMint and his colleagues think the time to end Medicare is now — with a cold-turkey conversion to a private program, effective in 2014. “I think if Americans actually find out the truth about what we’re doing, it will be a very big positive for Republicans in the fall,” DeMint forecast.
The plan is to scrap Medicare and enroll seniors in the health care plan for federal workers. Exactly how this would save money is a mystery to me, although Rand Paul says it would save Medicare $1 trillion over ten years, a figure I assume he pulled out of his ass. It’s possible he doesn’t appreciate that adding all those seniors to the federal group insurance plan would drive up the cost of the federal group insurance plan.
At Thursday’s news conference, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times pointed out that the lawmakers were proposing to do with Medicare almost exactly what President Obama’s reforms do for non-retirees: Direct them into private insurance with a subsidy for those who need it most.
Paul was flummoxed. “Uh, anybody want to comment on that?” he asked, producing laughter in the Senate TV studio.
DeMint gave it a try. “Medicare’s already set up as a government program, so we’re beginning to privatize with this idea,” he said. He said his plan takes Medicare recipients “out from under that manipulative umbrella of the Democratic Party.”
I’ve seen primary exit polling that suggests many seniors vote for Republicans because they believe they will “save” Medicare from the evil President Obama, who wants to “cut” it. Of course, the opposite is actually true. The President is trying to keep the program as it is but keep it solvent by putting tighter controls on payments to providers. On the other hand, all of the GOP candidates, including Mittens, have endorsed some variation of the Paul Ryan Medicare-killing plan. But a big talking point with them is a promise to maintain the current program for people already on it.
Now Rand, DeMint et al. are challenging the candidates to go even further Right on Medicare than they were already, which would be a disaster for whichever one of them is in the general election. That they couldn’t contain themselves and wait until after the November election to make this proposal makes them all look even more like lemmings than they did already.
Related: “The Case for Crazy.” John Avlon argues that the best thing that could happen to the GOP is to nominate Rick Santorum and lose in a historic landslide in November.
If Mitt Romney does finally wrestle the nomination to the ground, and then loses to Obama, conservatives will blame the loss on his alleged moderation. The right wing take-away will be to try to nominate a true ideologue in 2016.
But if someone like Rick Santorum gets the nomination in an upset, the party faithful will get to experience the adrenaline rush of going off a cliff together, like Thelma and Louise—elation followed by an electoral thud.
Part of the delusion that is “movement conservatism” is the belief that a large majority of the American people agree with teabaggery, and that only a fringe of elitist liberals stand against them. A teabag candidate sinking like the Titanic might wake some of them up, and might also be a warning to the small group of gazillionaires underwriting this nonsense that there’s a limit to what their money can buy, even in the age of Citizens United.