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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 27, 2011

 
Savvy Hypocrisy

by digby

Think Progress reports:

Current GOP Conference Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is one of those conservatives who blasted the health care law for cutting Medicare. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month, Hensarling noted that the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission had few health care recommendations. He called this a “bow to the left and the White House, which cut Medicare by $500 billion to finance a corner of ObamaCare”:

Yet, incredibly, the Simpson-Bowles report has almost nothing to say about the runaway health-care entitlements. This is a bow to the left and the White House, which cut Medicare by $500 billion to finance a corner of ObamaCare and wants its signature achievement untouched. But this is like doing a Pentagon budget review and excluding Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans ought to reject the report on those grounds alone.

Yet the National Journal reports this morning that none other than Hensarling is pushing for his fellow Republicans to support the privatization of Medicare and the moving of the eligibility age for the program from 65 to 69, which would involve enormous cuts:

PUSH TO PRIVATIZE. House GOP members are considering a measure to convert the government-backed Medicare program into a voucher system. The measure would be part of the House budget, which will be shaped next month. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the he expects Republicans to support the provision, which would require Medicare to give seniors an allotment of money to buy private coverage starting in 2021. The eligibility age would also be raised, from 65 to 69.

Hensarling’s proposal appears to be along the lines of House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Roadmap For America’s Future Act,” which would involve the most dramatic cuts to Medicare the program has ever seen. Under the Ryan plan, “Medicare would be cut 76 percent below its projected size under current policies, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In other words, by 2080, the vouchers that would replace Medicare would receive one-quarter of the resources that Medicare would otherwise use.”

Needless to say, it is incredibly cynical for Hensarling — and any of the other Republicans who support the Ryan plan — to complain about cuts to Medicare Advantage under Obama’s health law while simultaneously backing a proposal that would essentially end the program as we know it and leave millions of seniors on their own to contend with the health insurance industry.

In a normal country this would be considered incoherent at best. But in this country that kind of cynicism is called "savvy" and is the kind of thing we reward our winners in life for doing. Hensaerling will fit in perfectly on K Street as soon as he's done doing what he can to destroy the safety net. (And to those who think it's impossible for the Republicans to maneuver the Democrats into a bipartisan agreement to cut SS benefits and then use it against them in the next election, take heed. It's really not that hard.)

It's important to note one thing about this one, however. This is being done to position the Republicans for the looming "entitlement" battle. They will pretend to fight for this insane proposition and then reluctantly give it up in the "compromise." The Democrats, meanwhile, are floating a slight raise in the payroll cap or perhaps means testing of social security for which they too will fight until they are forced to give those positions up in the "compromise." And what will be left after both sides have given up their cherished desires?

You tell me. (And I'm sure you can see the problem here.) Whatever happens, the Democrats will undoubtedly tell us that the compromise saved the country all from crazy GOP privatization plans and we should be grateful for their stalwart defense.

In fact, they already are:
MR. AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think that -- as I said, I think his interest is in seeing the program strengthened, and there are certain things that are not just non-starters for him but I think many, many members of Congress, and that includes privatization, which Congressman Ryan has opposed, for example.
Privatization of Social Security has been off the table ever since the crash and burn of the Bush attempt in 2005, and certainly since the stock market crash of 2008. Indeed, until the last couple of weeks, the only people who even mentioned it were tough talking Democrats who used it as a straw man to show how serious they were about protecting Social Security (and Paul Ryan.) But it's creeping back into the conversation for good reason. It's a very useful negotiating chip.

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