Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quick-Thinking, Deluded Candidate

In one segment of her interview with Chris Wallace on GOP News Sunday, Michele Bachman managed to be ludicrous, dishonest, and cowardly. She is, in short, a skilled Republican politician. Here she is fielding questions (transcript of discussion, here) from the host on Medicare:

BACHMANN: What I want to do is to make sure that we fully repeal Obamacare. This will be one of the largest spending initiatives we will ever see in our country. And also, it will take away choice from the American people. It will hurt senior citizens, because Obama took away $500 billion, as you say, from Medicare and will transfer it younger people in Obamacare. Even worse, the Congressional Budget Office is saying ill lose 800,000 jobs with Obamacare. When we're in a situation now where we have massive job loss, this is not what we want to do with Obamacare.

WALLACE: But I want to ask about the Medicare part of it, because as you just said, it took away -- would take away almost half a trillion dollars, $500 billion, from Medicare, for a new entitlement. But you voted for the Paul Ryan House budget, which also take away almost half a trillion dollars from Medicare.

BACHMANN: Well, what we -- what we need to do is revise and change what we're doing in Washington, D.C. We do need to have changes in the budget. We do need to have changes in spending. But the one thing we know about Obamacare, it will be a brand new bureaucracy, larger than anything we've ever seen before in Washington. And we simply can't afford it. What seniors --

WALLACE: But if I may, I understand all that part of it. But specifically on Medicare, Obamacare would take away half a trillion dollars from Medicare. The Ryan budget which you voted for would take away half a trillion dollars for Medicare.

BACHMANN: Well, let's be clear. The Ryan budget is really the 55 and under plan. People need to recognize --

WALLACE: No, no, no. But

BACHMANN: -- no one over 55 will be touched.

WALLACE: No, no. But it would take away -- that's for the voucher plan. But it would take away --

BACHMANN: It's not a voucher plan.

WALLACE: We can talk about that. I mean, it's a premium support and a lot of people say that's the same thing.

BACHMANN: But it's not.

WALLACE: The point is, though, that it's taking half a trillion dollars away in the next decade for people over 55.

BACHMANN: For -- what the Ryan plan is trying to do is present a budget framework. It's important for people to recognize it's not legislation.

WALLACE: It's a legislation, as intended.

BACHMANN: It's a budget framework. And this is -- this is a starting point for us to have a discussion. I have put an asterisk, I voted for the plan because this is right, we need to get to our house in order with our fiscal spending. But my asterisk is, we have to make sure going forward with senior citizens, that we're focusing on a higher quality of life, dealing with cures for instance for senior citizens.

Ludicrous: Representative Bachmann is exorcised that the Affordable Care Act cuts $500 billion from Medicare. It does, as everyone in the US Congress is aware, reduce the cost of Medicare (which, except when discussing the Obama health care plan, is an object of enthusiasm for Republicans) by reducing the payments given to providers in the (private) Medicare Advantage Program. Meanwhile, Bachmann favors the Ryan plan, which saves federal revenues by, specifically and solely, increasing individual costs for the (elderly) consumer. And rescinds the Medicare program, which Bachmann pretends to support.

Dishonest: No, the Ryan budget is not the 55 and under plan. It's the plan for elderly individuals. It affects only those currently under 55 but will affect them only when older. Consider: the state of Transylvania, in which individuals 17 and older are eligible to drive, this year lowers its speed limit on its state highways from 65 to 55, to take effect on June 26, 2015. Do Transylvania officials announce its laws apply to persons 13 and younger? If so, a lot of 13, 12, 11, and 10 year olds will jump for joy- they've just been handed a driver's license! No, the law will be thought to apply only to the 17+ set, the only group that drives. Announcing that a health care scheme for the elderly applies only to the 55 and under crowd is an attempt to decouple government health care from the idea that it services the elderly. Young and middle-aged people don't get Medicare- hence, insisting that the Ryan plan applies only to those under 55 implies that these individuals are losing, and will lose, nothing they don't already have.

Additionally, the elderly health care plan in the House-approved budget is a voucher plan- not "premium support." Take it from the one of the guys, Hall of Famer* Henry Aaron, who devised the original premium support plan (emphasis that of CAP's Igor Volsky):

The defining attribute of the plans that Reischauer and I christened “premium support” was that the amount of support was to be indexed to average health care costs, not, as in voucher plans, to a price index or per person income. If savings were to result from the exercise of consumer choice and market discipline, that would be well and good, we argued. But savings should not come from erosion of the adequacy of support resulting from linking the payment to a slowly growing index. This difference is crucial. Voucher plans are virtually guaranteed to become increasingly inadequate; premium support plans will not.

Courageous: Time to put on your man-pants, Michele, as one of your fellow Republicans would put it. She contends "what the Ryan plan is trying to do is present a budget framework. It's important for people to recognize it's not legislation." The budget resolution is a is a blueprint for spending and budget resolution and was defeated- as expected- in the Senate. But given how "serious" the proposal, and how "bold" Ryan, was deemed by the media and the GOP, it seems a little odd and weak-kneed now to try to claim that it really didn't count. It was only to prompt discussion, don't you know. Just a thought, nothing else.

New to the race, Michele Bachmann is a little bit of a novelty, and still enjoying a honeymoon period with the media, though Chris Wallace did a professional job interviewing her. Bachmann is determined and skilled, and will need every bit of those attributes when the real questions begin.

* obviously, not this Henry Aaron.

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