Friday, September 27, 2013

Strategic Confusion

Slamming health care reform on Thursday, Rush Limbaugh stated "Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal today says that next Tuesday when Obamacare begins its final and full implementation, what will happen is ''the discrediting of the entitlement state.'

Henninger's primary contention may be that the Affordable Care Act is bound to collapse on its own. But along the way he claims

Going back at least to the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Commission in 1999, endless learned bodies have warned that the U.S. entitlement scheme of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is financially unsupportable. Of Medicare, Rep. Bill Thomas said at the time, "One of the biggest problems is that the government tries to administer 10,000 prices in 3,000 counties, and it gets it wrong most of the time." But change never comes.

You will not be surprised that the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, whose aim it is to defend corporate America at every point, is short of facts.  He does not mention any of the "endless learned bodies (which) have warned" that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are "financially unsupportable."

Well, aside from the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Commission in 1999.  Inconveniently, however, the Commission did not issue any warning about "the U.S. entitlement scheme."   On April 14, 1999 Representative Jan Schakowsky noted on the floor of the House of Representatives

The Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare nearly approved a plan to save Medicare. But a fundamental consideration was strangely missing from the proposal by Medicare Commission Chair Senator John Breaux (D-LA) and co- chair Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA): the detrimental effect this plan would have on the millions of seniors and persons with disabilities who rely on Medicare.  The simple fact is the proposal nearly passed by the Medicare Commission is a disaster.

That bears a striking resemblance to the spin given the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  The Commission's co-chairpersons, Republican Alan Simpson and "Democrat" Erskine Bowles, did issue a report but the commission itself did not, owing to insufficient agreement among members. Nevertheless, the proposal offered by Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles are often, erroneously, referred to as "the commission's report."

Unaware that something is labeled an "entitlement" by the federal government merely if appropriations need not be renewed annually, most individuals hear "entitlements' and think it's lazy people who believe they're owed something for simply breathing.  (Fortunately,  people otherwise still think of them primarily as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.) Henninger's reference to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security as "entitlements" not surprisingly mirrors the glee of other Repubs when they use the term.

As described by Crooks and Liars' Heather, CNN's Crossfire on Wednesday featured U.S. senators Lindsey Graham and Bernie Sanders.   The South Carolina Repub at one point maintained

Well, no. What I'm trying to do is save the country from bankruptcy. And when the president of the United States, who I usually don't agree with, put CPI on the table, I thought it was a very courageous thing to do. And I am willing to flatten that tax code. I can go to the rich people in America and all the corporations, say, "We're going to take deductions off the table you now enjoy. Take that money back for the many, not just the few."

But if you don't help me reform the entitlements, there's no way to get there by taxing people.

Sanders called Graham out, stating "I want everybody to understand, when Lindsey talks about reforming entitlements, what he means is cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare."  Co-host Newt Gingrich then made his own reference to "bankrupt."

An organization, person, or a country is considered "bankrupt" when it is "declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts."  But commenting upon the C&L post, the insightful "Paul" observed "The country is not going bankrupt, and if it is in financial straights the way to start getting out of troubles is not by destroying the social safety nets."

Many Repubs don't want the nation to be able to pay its outstanding debts, given they don't want the debt ceiling raised, which would possibly lead to a downgrade of the nation's credit status and a jump in the interest rates hampering its ability to pay down thes debt.  Good strategy, though; claim the country is bankrupt, work toward it, and then point to the economic calamity you've created as affirmation of your policies.

"Paul" also points the way to a more accurate branding of Medicare and Social Security, explaining "They are fully pre-funded, because social security is a fully prepaid annuity that pays earned benefits, not entitlements."  They are better understood as earned benefits, rather than entitlements, and Medicaid as perhaps "survival insurance."

Graham considers himself, "Paul" observes, the "underling" of the rich.  That represents, at least, valuable self-insight on the part of the South Carolina senator who, with Henninger and many other Republicans, are comfortable in their roles as lackeys of the corporate sector.

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