Friday, May 27, 2011

Standing Short For Medicare

She is a Democrat. She represents a major swath of South Florida, including the retirement havens of North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, and Miami. Much of her constituency is elderly people, especially retired people who were reared in the relatively liberal northeastern U.S.

So what in the world was Debbie Wasserman Schultz following- and commenting on- the upset victory in N.Y. 26 of Democrat Kathy Hochul up to on Chris Matthews' Hardball (transcript here) maintaining

So, I mean, I think it is really -- it couldn`t be more clear that Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it and yank the safety net out from under our senior citizens, deny them affordable health care. And Democrats want to make sure that we can sit down around the table with Republicans, work to save Medicare, make sure that we can add to -- more to the long-term security of Medicare, like we did with the Affordable Care Act when we added 12 years of solvency to it.

She probably was up to the same thing she was the previous evening talking about the same issue to Lawrence O'Donnell (transcript here) on the same network:

....and make sure that we continue to draw the contrast that Kathy so successfully did between the Republicans who want to end Medicare as we know it and Democrats who make sure, like President Obama has talked about and Kathy did, that we strike the right balance and not balance all the pain on the backs of our seniors and people who can least afford. it....

I hope the message that Republicans got from this election result yesterday is that they should come to the table with us, sit down around the negotiating table and let`s work together to hammer out a reasonable compromise so we can preserve Medicare for the long term.

Schultz was touting, fairly gloating- as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, she has every right to- the upset victory in upstate New York by a nominee whom Wasserman Schultz herself attributed partly to Medicare. But instead of a full-throated defense of Medicare, she declares "We just need a willing partner to sit down and compromise with us" so the pols can "strike the right balance and not balance all the pain on the backs of our seniors...."

She wants to do that with a party which provided President Obama with zero (0) votes in the House and Senate for the Affordable Care Act and, after winning control of the House, proceeded to approve a repeal of health care reform, such repeal failing in the Senate notwithstanding every Republican standing in favor. It is a party 233 of whose 240 members House members have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, pledging never, ev to vote in favor of increasing a tax or cutting a tax loophole. (Two Democrats currently in the House have signed.) And in a completely unrelated issue, it is a party whose members of Congress cheered on the Israeli Prime Minister after- and expressly because- he humiliated our own President (who, admittedly, is a willing victim).

The nomenclature is telling from the DNC head. Schultz wants to "preserve Medicare for the long term," mimicking Paul Ryan, who promises to "save" and "preserve" Medicare. Ryan denies that he is aiming to end, or even cut, Medicare. Why, he wants only to save and "strengthen Medicare by empowering seniors."

That sounds a lot like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Moreover, she accuses Republicans of trying to "end Medicare as we know it." No, it's not "as we know it." It's ending Medicare. Period.

Perhaps Schultz deserves a break, seeming to take her talking points from the White House, which is negotiating (through surrogates Durbin and Biden) a cut in Medicare, after which it will tell its supporters that the program has been preserved against GOP attempts to end it. But as Robert Reich points out, this is the time for the Democratic Party boldly to propose Medicare for all, moving the goalposts to the left (which, in this environment, is toward the center), rather than to take a defensive posture. With a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate, and an electorate which wants its leaders to hold firm against the opponents of Medicare, America's less-conservative party can do better.

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