Friday, August 05, 2011

Lost Opportunity, Turned Against Them

The Republican National has already begun exploiting the opportunity handed them by Senate Democrats and, especially, Barack Obama. Its blog "For The Record…It Was Obama Who Offered To Cut Hundreds Of Billions In Medicare During The Debt Debate," includes the headings

Obama Agreed To Medicare Cuts In Debt Ceiling Deal

Obama Put "Major Changes" To Medicare On the Table During Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Obama Said He Was Open To Mans Testing Medicare

Obama Admitted That The Democrats’ Do-Nothing Plan On Medicare Will Result In Medicare’s Bankruptcy

White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe Said Cuts In Medicare Are Necessary

Obama And Republicans “Were Not Apart At All On Medicare"

White House Official Claimed That Obama And The Republicans Were “Identical” On Medicare, Agreeing On “Eligibility, Cost-Sharing, Premiums, And Other Facets Of The Program"]

"Other General Areas Of Agreement Included Extending The Payroll Tax, Extending Unemployment Benefits And Altering The Consumer Price Index On Social Security"

"Some Of The Figures Being Discussed Would Cut $150 Billion In Healthcare Provider Payments, Raise $150 Billion In Premiums And $125 Billion In Medicaid Reductions"

Top Senate Democrats Oppose Making Any Cuts To Medicare Because It Robs Democrats Opportunity To Demagogue Republicans On The Issue;

Democrats Frustrated With Potential Cuts To Medicare Because “Protecting Medicare And Social Security Was A Defining Democratic Value, And That Agreeing To Cuts Would Be A Gift To Republicans If Not Political Suicide

The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins Explains

The plan wrought by the debt ceiling negotiations, and endorsed by Obama, makes no cuts to Medicare in the first round, leaves it up to the super committee to do so in the second, and forces a trigger cut to Medicare on the provider side if no resolution can be had in committee or in Congress. Make no mistake, though, massive cuts on the provider side will have consequences for recipients.

The opportunity lost by the Democratic Party can be summed up by the most telling subheading on the RNC post:

Democrat Operatives Worried That They Have Lost Their Political Advantage On Medicare.

It's not like we weren't warned. When the Ryan budget plan ending Medicare was proposed, the political advantage was clear. Juan Cole pointed out "There is no public outcry to voucherize Medicare, it’s a sure political loser, and it will die a short and quiet crib death without any Democratic intervention in the form of a counter-proposal." Brian Beutler, noting that if the "grand bargain" pushed (and temporarily abandoned) by President Obama" includes Medicare benefit cuts that both parties buy into, it will further expose the shambolic nature of the last two years' politics. But more to the point, it will blunt Democrats' ability to run against the House Republican vote to privatize and, yes, slash Medicare. And it will hurt Senate Democrats, many more of whom will be up for re-election in 2012 than will their Republican colleagues." Heather Digby Parton understood

This should be a slam dunk for the Democrats but only if they take an exceedingly hard line and don't waver. If they start capitulating and wavering, they'll lose the most valuable political advantage they've built up over 60 years. Dems should just say "we created social security and Medicare, we protected it when the Republicans tried to end them over and over again, and you can trust us to keep them strong now." Seniors are old enough to remember that history.

The willingness to cut payments to Medicare providers ran hand-in-hand with Democratic timidity over the Ryan plan. Republicans in the House voted unanimously in favor of the Ryan budget plan turning Medicare into an unpopular voucher system. But instead of charging Republicans- accurately- with trying to destroy Medicare, Democrats accused the GOP of attempting to end Medicare "as we know it" and echoed the President's promise not to "slash" benefits.

In a separate post, Digby warned that if Democrats

are willing to sacrifice their own people in the name of Austerity, then the party will have pretty much talked itself out of it's raison d'etre. The fact is that people over 50 are the ones who have been financially destroyed in this economy and..... (when) you get older, you get a little concerned about things like Social Security and Medicare and worry when the whole damned government seems on a crusade to get rid of it.


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