Anyone watching the election campaign picked up pretty fast on the fact that Donald Trump has no real policy beliefs or understanding of the policy process, but rather relies on emotive slogans and the insights of whomever is momentarily ascendant among his inner group of sycophants. We’ve gleaned from bits and pieces of what he has told folks that he doesn’t intend to get his hands dirty with actual presidential work. Which means that when it comes to policy, we’re likely going to be dealing with co-presidents-in-all-but-title, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence.
And for House Speaker Ryan that means that he may finally have the means to put the social safety net out of the misery the GOP has tried to inflict on it over the years. It looks like Medicare is going to get the ax first. As TPM reports, Ryan has “proposed to privatize the current Medicare system, within the earliest days of the impending Trump administration.”
Ryan’s hoping to phase out our highly efficient Medicare insurance system in favor of a voucher system which, in the long term, is not likely to cover the cost of buying comprehensive insurance in an uncontrolled private market. Though Ryan touts the savings to be realized from privatizing Medicare, economics journalist Michael Hiltzik shows that that the savings would be “illusory,” with costs “shifted from government to seniors.”
Ryan’s new strategy seems to be to phase Medicare out as part of the process of fulfilling The Donald’s promise to kill Obamacare. Ryan’s already started a propaganda blitz tying the two together as part of a deceptively titled “reform.” As Hitzlick points out:
Ryan has surrounded his Medicare proposal with a bodyguard of lies. In his Fox News appearance, he said Medicare is “going broke” and ascribed its problems to the Affordable Care Act. Neither is true.
Medicare faces fiscal problems, but it’s not going broke, and according to both the Medicare trustees and the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act has in fact alleviated those problems rather than caused them. The trustees reported in 2010 that passage of Obamacare had postponed the projected exhaustion date of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years — to 2029 from 2017. Projections of Medicare spending growth have consistently come down, year after year, at least in part due to changes in the program imposed through Obamacare.
The program’s fiscal situation would be “substantially improved,” the trustees said, because the ACA instituted new cost controls and provided new tax revenues for the program. Both those features would disappear if the GOP repeals the ACA, as is its intention.
Voila – Ryan guts Medicare while simultaneously deep-sixing another of the social welfare programs so despised by Republicans.
But Ryan can’t do this all on his lonesome, you say – and you’re right. It’ll take a majority of the congress to make it happen, but, with Republicans dominant in both houses, he has a very good chance. And don’t forget, he’s got The Donald.
So, comes the next question. How does our Missouri congressional delegation stand on the issue of killing the Medicare program?
Fortunately for us, Danielle Keeton-Olsen of TPM is keeping a list (and updating it regularly) of who’s naughty and nice. And so far, none of our Missouri delegation is definitely on either list. Instead, the two who’ve been contacted to date, GOP Senator Roy Blunt and Rep. Sam Graves (R-6), are listed with those who have refused to commit either way or, as Keeton-Olsen wryly notes, claim they didn’t even know it was an issue. Yeah, right.
Blunt has been on record as opposing Medicare in the past, although he has also tried to pose as a savior of aspects of the program when it has been expedient. If his past behavior is any indicator, he will hem and haw and say nothing as long as he can, and then come down firmly on the side of the GOP Senate leadership of which he is a junior member. The guy knows where his bread is buttered, and we know what that means as far as Medicare goes. And I would guess that Sam Graves isn’t going to go to any great lengths to save Medicare either since he voted yes on an earlier Ryan Budget that included the same privatization plan.
If, like me, you’re concerned about your Medicare and whether or not the program will be around for your children and their children – and there’s no objective, fiscal reason it should not be – call or write your congressmen or women today to find out where they stand and let them know where you stand.
Making your point of view known will be especially important when it comes to our only Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill. The Senate may well be our only bulwark against Ryan’s attack on Medicare, and Senator McCaskill, who now finds herself representing a blood-red constituency, has never been a profile in courage. She’s up for re-election in two years. We’ve got to let her know that if she doesn’t defend Medicare with all she’s got, this time we really won’t forget.
Meanwhile, you can check TPM for updates – and also consider letting them know what you find out when/if you call your congressman or woman by using the “Send Comments & News Tips” link on the TPM Masthead. And I’ll update here on SMP as I learn more about the Medicare druthers of our shy Missouri pols.