Medicare and Other Follies

I hope everyone gets some sunshine, beer and cookout sometime this weekend.

On to business — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says that cuts to Medicare are requisite to Republican approval of a debt ceiling raise. So that’s it — they’re holding Medicare hostage.

Steve Benen: “The talking point isn’t complicated: Senate Republicans will create a recession unless Democrats agree to Medicare cuts.” Yep. See also David Kurtz.

Talk about low expectations — this guy named Joe Nocera (Frank Rich’s replacement at the NY Times? Yikes!) says that even though the Paul Ryan Medicare plan is really, really bad, we should not be heaping such scorn on it. Why? “Because even if Ryan’s solution is wrongheaded, he’s right that Medicare is headed for trouble.”

Oh, give me a break. Everyone in America above the age of 6 knows Medicare is headed for trouble. I suspect there are border collies and even part of the raccoon population that knows Medicare is headed for trouble.

Then Nocera says, “The debate we need is not about whether Medicare should be reformed, but how.” Yes, and we’ve been trying to have that debate. The Affordable Care Act passed last year made quite a few changes to Medicare and laid some groundwork for bringing down costs, although most of the changes haven’t gone into effect. But most of the public has no idea how the ACA affects Medicare, because all they’ve heard about is have been screaming Republican demagoguery — Death panels! Rationing!

Which takes us to the larger point — Yes, Mr. Nocera, we need to be having a serious national talk about Medicare. We need to have serious national talks about a lot of things. We’ve needed to have such talks for a long time. Are you really so clueless to not understand why we never have such talks? Have you been living on another planet for the past 20 — nay, 30 — years?

As Steve M says, “But these are modern Republicans we’re talking about.” You want to have a serious debate to find workable solutions? With them? Are you nuts?

How long is it going to take these “pundits” to notice that modern Republicanism isn’t so much a political party as a mass hallucination?

Last week the House Republicans, apparently running out of new ways to restrict abortion, put out a “jobs” plan. The plan reveals the House Republicans have absolutely no idea how create jobs. Here it is (Acrobat v. X probably required), and it’s a joke. There’s not a serious “solution” in it.

Steve Benen again:

As we discussed yesterday, the jobs agenda, such as it is, is practically a conservative cliche: the GOP wants massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, more coastal oil drilling, and huge cuts to public investment. Republicans are confident this will work wonders, just as they were equally confident about the identical agenda in the last decade, and the decade before that, and the decade before that.

I liked this bit:

The agenda is the agenda: tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, cut public investments. Good times and bad, deficit or surplus, war or peace, it just doesn’t matter.

It’s as if someone bought an iPod, uploaded one song, and hit “shuffle.”

Heh. He continues,

… the Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt. It has no new ideas, no constructive solutions, no creativity, no depth of thought, no recollection of how and why this same foolish agenda didn’t work before. The GOP just has warmed-over nonsense, to be brought out year after year, with the hopes that the public has short enough memories that we won’t notice or mind.


Oh, and while some people are still trying to praise Ryan for starting a useful conversation, the reality is that he’s totally unwilling to let facts enter the debate. Look at his exchange with Ezra Klein over health care costs: this is not the sound of a sincere, open-minded guy,. Notice how he evades Klein’s attempt to get him to accept the overwhelming fact that other countries pay much less for health care than we do.

Yeah, notice that.

16 thoughts on “Medicare and Other Follies

  1. The Republican Party has become nothing but a bunch of spoiled little brats that will go crying home to mommy because the Democratic Party wasn’t nice to them. I have only three years of college (no degree) but I seem to have a better understanding about the debt ceiling and the damage that will be done to this country if it isn’t raised soon than any of these ridiculous Republicans. By holding the debt ceiling hostage to spending cuts, the Republicans are now authentic traitors to this country.

  2. Dear Joe Nocera,
    Would you start a serious debate with the economic terrorists who held your family hostage at the point where they tell you that no matter what you offer, the starting point is the your Grandparents are fuckng goners?

    We lose Rich and Herbert in the NY Times, and get back Nocera and Bruni?
    Great trade. IMBECILES!
    It’s as if Arty (Dumb as an Ox) Sulzberger has been the owner of the NY Mets for the past few years as they’ve declined steeply, and Bill Keller’s been his GM and Manager.
    The Mets have sucked, and now the NY Times seems determined to out-suck them!
    If that’s your goal, then Nocera and Bruni are a great start. boys!

    How long before you ask Kristol back, and invite Malkin, Erickson, Coulter, O’Reilly, and Krauthammer aboard?

    A hypothetical conversation at today’s NY Times:

    Arty “Dumb as an Ochs” Sulzberger: “Gee Bill, how come no one’s buying our paper anymore?”

    Bill “Should Be Kept Locked-up Until the End of Time in a Concrete” Kellar: “We’re too Liberal. We need to reach out to the right-center since we’re a center-right nation.
    I hear Glenn Beck’s free soon. Maybe we should call him and see if he can replace Krugman? What’s that asshole know about economics anyway? Fire him Arty.”

    Arty: “Gee, Bill, you’re SOOOOOOo smart! OK, but remember, Kelly, it up to, so, Krugmans out!!!”


  3. In jokes and movies, robbers ask, “your money or your life?” Baggers, Repubs and Randoids want BOTH.

    Time to order that “Rosetta Stone”.

  4. the starting point is the your Grandparents are fuckng goners?

    Ah, spoken like a true New Yorker! The grammar might be a little imperfect, but the message is direct and to the point.

  5. I read on another forum last week (sorry, I forget where) that the GOP professionals, not Teabaggers, are disparate for any Medicare agreement or compromise that they can hang the label ‘bipartisan’ on. The House and Senate have hitched their wagons to the Ryan plan. Now they have to create the plausible argument that democrats agree with defunding medicare. Regardless of the potential consequences to the US economy, we can’t give them that political cover.

    This isn’t about scoring political points in advance of the 2012 elections. Radical conservatism came to power in the House with vague platitudes. Mostly they have played around with issues to please the wingnuts at home which can’t pass the Senate, and would never be signed by Obama. The Ryan plan moved the discussion to concrete specifics which moderate voters can understand. Privatize Medicare & lower taxes for the top 1%.

    The political professionals in the GOP are desparate to legitimize the Ryan plan by finding bipartisan ‘agreement in principle’. Heres what Obama needs to say. Funding care for seniors has to be unequivocal. That puts tax increases back ON the table. Privatizing Medicare and/or Social Security we absolutely reject. Serious factual objective discussions about what is driving the growth in the cost of medical care, compared to other countries, IS where answers must be found.

    McConell should be given the chance to make a specific proposal on Medicare which would be the basis for negotiations. This was his idea, so he can make the opening bid. But on anything as critical as Medicare, the voters are entitled to know who stand for what. So let’s televise the negotiations. No closed doors. Seniors are dying to know what you have in mind, Mitch.

  6. Swami,
    Yaright, but id wan’t da gramma about ya Gramma and Grampa – it was da spellin’.
    Ad da en’, id should read, “… the startin’ poin is tha ya Grandparents ah fuckin’ gonahs?”

    Sorry ’bout dat!

  7. I mean’ to add, “You can take da boy oudda da city, but you can’ take da city oudda da boy…”

  8. As far as the Senate Minority leader is concerned, I think that he is representative of three conjoined elements:

    1. He is trying to make the billionaires that have propped him in place, happy.

    2. He is working to make a Dem POTUS fail.

    3. Republicans and Tea Partiers are racist.

    That explains it all.

    They are incapable of thinking far enough ahead to what will happen to their fortunes if the country goes into default and the world economy plunges.

  9. I have read more than once, and heard from a Dem Senator a while back, that the Medicare program costs the government between $700 billion and $1 trillion/year in waste, fraud and abuse. In my book, that number is astoundingly high.

    So why does this alarming fact continue to basically fly below the radar when it comes to Medicare reform. I haven’t a clue other than a guess that the major waste, fraud and abuse belong in the laps of the medical profession, for-profit hospitals and the health insurance industry – three ‘untouchables’ in political DC. On the other hand, if the three culprits were in the laps of the people, particularly the poor, they would never be below the radar.

    Speaking of the poor, Senator Boxer said the other day that the average 65-year and older American woman has a yearly income of $14,000. And if the Ryan plan were to be adopted, that woman would end up having to pay $12,000/yr. out of pocket for access to medical care. No comment is possible, can possibly convey the heartlessness of the Republican agenda.

    • Medicare program costs the government between $700 billion and $1 trillion/year in waste, fraud and abuse. In my book, that number is astoundingly high.

      It’s so astounding that I flat-out don’t believe it. Medicare and Medicaid together were budgeted $793 billion for 2010, so according to your source, more Medicare money is wasted than is actually spent.

      So why does this alarming fact continue to basically fly below the radar when it comes to Medicare reform.

      The Affordable Care Act actually addresses Medicare fraud and abuse in several ways.

  10. I totally agree, maha. It is flat-out unbelievable. If ever I see or hear it again, I’ll be sure and note the source and pass it on. Of course the fact that approximately 30,000 Medicare patients die every year from over-treatment does suggest that waste, fraud and abuse are large ticket items in the overall Medicare Program.

    The Affordable Care Act does address fraud and abuse. But Republicans act as if the Act never happened which sort of lets them off the hook on fraud and abuse, doesn’t it.

  11. maha, I googled medicare $700 billion waste and that number was all over the place. Also interesting was the breakdown of waste, fraud, and abuse definitions.

    • I googled medicare $700 billion waste and that number was all over the place.

      Yes, but over what time period? One year or ten years? It makes a big difference. It can’t be true for one year, because I’m pretty sure that’s more than Medicare is budgeted for one year. If it’s over ten years, that’s more believable.

      And, anyway, as I said, the Affordable Care Acts addresses waste and fraud in several ways. It’s not like nobody has noticed.

  12. Good point, maha. “It’s not like nobody has noticed” I saw the figure $70-80 billion/year but have yet to find it mentioned by Republican members of Congress in connection with reducing the deficit/debt. Can’t imagine why. Oh, yes I can.

  13. I continue to be amazed that Krugman hasn’t freaked out and taken an axe to the internets. It’s like someone’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Nocera thinks since the cancer will ultimately end in disaster, Ryan shouldn’t be mocked for suggesting we burn down the hospital. All whilst the oncologist, Dr Krugman, is actually explaining how cancer can be treated.

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