Government Spending

The Republican Pledge to Avoid Doing Anything About Medicare


Avik Roy makes an important point about the recently released Republican Pledge to America: When it comes to entitlements, and specifically health care entitlements, the document has very little to say:

The Pledge says almost nothing about the biggest and most difficult questions in health policy: Medicare and Medicaid reform. It criticizes PPACA's "massive Medicare cuts" without offering an alternative solution for putting the program on stable long-term footing.

By my quick count, the Pledge uses the word "Medicare" eight times. There are references to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services as well as to the Medicare Trustees Report. There's also a reference to the fact that the billion dollars a day our country will soon be spending on debt service "won't build roads, fight terrorism, secure our border, or support Medicare for seniors" (a line which tells us a lot about how the GOP thinks taxpayer money ought to be used). And then there are warnings that the new health care law's Medicare cuts will hurt seniors:

  • "The chief actuary at the Obama Administration's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has confirmed that the new law's massive Medicare cuts will fall squarely on the backs of seniors, millions of whom will be forced off their current Medicare coverage." (p. 26)
  • "The new health care law includes…$528.5 billion in Medicare cuts, which will be used to create new programs not related to seniors." (p. 28)

The only reference to long term planning for Medicare and Medicaid comes on page 22, and it's hardly inspiring:

We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today's seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities.

They will make decisions! That are necessary! But what might those decisions be? Er, um…look, a blimp!

Combine this with the hedged promise to only roll back spending "with common-sense exceptions for seniors" (as well as veterans and troops) and you have a recipe for total inaction on our unsustainable entitlements. The conservative defense, best expressed by National Review's Kevin Williamson, is that it's unrealistic to expect too much action or specificity from the party given the limited political prospects for large-scale reforms in the coming years. The Pledge is a popular campaign document, after all. Williamson is right that Republicans will struggle to accomplish any of their major initiatives in the near future. But it's tough to trust their fiscal bona fides if they can barely manage to anxiously tip-toe around the subject of entitlement reform.

It's not simply that the GOP leadership isn't specific enough. It's that  even when directly pressed, GOP leadership won't take even the smallest of stands when it comes to entitlemen

Medic…Medicaaaaaa…Medi…Medi…Nope. Can't say it.

t spending. The party's House Minority Leader, John Boehner, certainly doesn't have any answers—or if he does, he's not telling anyone:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he doesn't have the answer to solving Medicare's spending crisis. To solve those problems, Boehner said, Congress will first have to initiate "an adult conversation" with voters, who will then decide what fixes to apply.

"It's time for us as Americans to have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges that face our country," Boehner said Thursday, responding directly to a question about entitlement solutions during the unveiling of the GOP "Pledge." "I don't have all the solutions. But I believe that if we work with the American people, the American people will want to work with us to come to grips with these challenges that face our country.

If Boehner, one of the most powerful politicans in the Republican party, wants to have an "adult conversation" with voters, shouldn't he be willing to start that conversation by talking about the actual policy changes he and his party believe will be necessary to turn Medicare into a sustainable program? Democrats at least cloaked their health care overhaul in the CBO-certified veneer of fiscal responsibility; Boehner and many of the Republicans behind the Pledge can't even be bothered to take a passing stab at the specifics of entitlement reform. And it's not as if Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership haven't had the opportunity to sign onto a broad and relatively slow-moving plan to deal with the country's long-term deficit and rising entitlement costs—Paul Ryan's Roadmap. But instead of signing on as supporters, many top Republicans (including Boehner) responded with something to the effect of "that's really, uh, interesting" and tried to change the subject. The GOP clearly wants to be the party of fiscal responsibility. But if it hopes to claim that title, it's first going to have to introduce a plan to be fiscally responsible.

More on Medicaid reform here. More on the GOP's Pledge here, here, and here.

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  1. Sadly, you can’t tell the truth and still get elected. But I’m sure you know that.

    1. Yup. Everybody go home now.

    2. That sums it up, sadly.

      1. Are you guys talking to me?

        1. You, and everyone who comes after sadly.

    3. So what does this mean? The tab will just get passed around like a hot potato until the last person on Earth is stuck with it?

  2. Why don’t you guys just put the over 65 crowd on floating pieces of ice and send them off on their way? Could cut down on those costs a lot. Worked for us!

    1. Exactly. Before 1965 every, single older person in American died an excruciating death as their children stood by, laughing and pointing.
      Thank God the g’ment stepped in and saved them.

      1. I remember that. It was a hoot!

      2. Before 1965 was horrible! Until the Great Society was invented, the poverty rate was around 13 percent, and dropping at only 10 percent per decade. But thanks to LBJ’s wisdom, today our poverty rate is down to 13 percent and only rising very gradually. Hooray!

    2. Of course, for some of you young’ns 1965 might actually be ancient history. It was after the French Revolution, but before MTV. For those of you who went to public schools, just wiki it.

      1. It was after the French Revolution, but before MTV

        Sounds like some mythical age when unicorns ran wild and text books showed the USSR was dominating the US economically.

    3. What ice?!?!?!

  3. I did see, however, a note from NRO’s immigration restrictionist Mark Krikorian that “Boehner personally vetoed a proposal to include an E-Verify mandate.”

    So I’m glad at least that that happened.

    1. But that sop to the libertardians is obviously not enough.

  4. “Adult conversation” translates to: a conversation with adults over the age 50 talking about how you will rob their children blind.

    1. Adult conversations from a guy with a Boehner?

    2. I always thought “adult conversations” was like an “adult drinks”, “adult films”, or “adult toys”…

    3. Correction:

      “…how you will rob somebody else’s children bling.”

      1. blind.

        But I like bling too.

  5. Considering the fact that if Republicans so much as utter the word “Medicaire” in any way, shape or form, the Obamacrats and their media wing will immediately claim that Republicans want to take away Medicare.

    As an example, watch Rep. Paul Ryan attempt to discuss entitlements with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Democrats aren’t interested in a fair fight. Look at Obama’s stupid “car and the slurpee” analogy he uses at every campaign stop, which blames Republicans for our current economic malaise whilst ignoring the fact that Congress has been run by Democrats since 2006, which is conincidentally when the economy started to show signs of problems.

    Republicans would be strategically insane to attempt to have a reasoned debate about Medicare before the mid-terms.

    1. Then one still expects Boehner to make off the record remarks to such effect. Any indication this is actually happening?

      1. Why would Boehner make any remarks about it at all? Anything they say about Medicare that the press picks up -whether on or off the record- will be spun as an attempt to “take away seniors healthcare coverage”.

        Look at what happened with MedicareAdvantage, the gap program that many seniors were using to help deal with the fact that Medicare wasn’t covering their needs. The democrats were able to nuke MedAdvantage and use the funds for Obamacare, and you didn’t hear a peep from the press about how this was actually taking away seniors medicare coverage. Instead you heard that Democrats were simply “readjusting budgetary priorities” so they could make the Obamacare numbers look less disasterous.

        I have no problem with Republicans avoiding the conversation until after the mid-terms.

        1. Problem is that you can keeping using this logic forever, and if you do, you never do anything about Medicare. At some point, you have to come out with an actual plan and face the political heat for it.

        2. I have no problem with Republicans avoiding the conversation until after the mid-terms.

          Then you won’t have a problem with them avoiding the conversation until after the 2012 POTUS election, and then again until after the 2014 mid-terms. And they’re counting on this, that you’ll buy all of their faux-fiscal prudence ideology and keep buying into ad infinitum. Meanwhile, they’ll never talk about the damn issues.

          If they can’t get elected talking about it and looking like the reasonable adults in the room, they ain’t gonna do it once they get elected.

          1. But hey! We may get a war or two out of the deal! So why not? What could go wrong?

          2. Then you won’t have a problem with them avoiding the conversation until after the 2012 POTUS election, and then again until after the 2014 mid-terms.

            Uh, yes, I will. That’s my point. If republicans get the keys back after the mid-terms then they BETTER start talking about reforming entitlements and taking Pauls roadmap seriously, because then they will be in a position to actually do something about it. As it is now, all they will achieve by talking about it is another two years in the minority.

            1. And what if they don’t? We’ll vote them out of office…oh yeah, and then get demtards who are just as bad. I’ve seen this movie already.

              1. I agree that Republicans have a pretty awful track record when it comes to entitlement reform, but at least people like Ryan are serious about it. I want to see them get a chance at the plate to take this seriously. If they don’t then yeah, fuck them and the horse they rode in on. I agree that the odds are against them, but I think the alternative is 100 times worse.

                I suppose you have a better suggestion?

                1. I don’t know fucking about them, but I’m sure there are certain people who shall remain unnamed that might have interest in unspeakable acts with the horse they rode in on.

                  And moreover, I can agree with your overall sentiment. There may only be two or three ‘pubs that are serious as cancer about tackling the massive debtocalypse, but that is two or three more than the dems have going for thm.

              2. Actually, the best thing about the Tea Party is that they are turning out the establishment. I thing the R establishment is shitting its pants. That will be the real test, is to see if the limited government active and non-active coalition can remain vigilant. Lindsay Graham, for instance, will more than likely be staying home.

            2. What, in the past decade, has told you that they were remotely serious about reforming entitlements? We’ve had a Democratic president for only two of the last ten years, and a Republican congress for more than half the time as well. With the Republicans back in office, we’ll get the same economic stupidity, with another load of gay-muslim-marriage panic thrown in.

              1. “With the Republicans back in office, we’ll get the same economic stupidity,”

                Have you not been paying attention? Bush’s spending has convinced Democrats their response should be programs priced in trillions instead of billions. Maybe you’re bad at math but there is a difference.

        3. I’ll tell ya why, because saying you belive in private property owners being able to dictate who their patrons are means you don’t want sick, minority children having lunch at the same counter as oppressive white males. Best to have that adult conversation after Nov. 2.

    2. That video makes my head hurt every time I try and watch it.

      Nonetheless, your point is correct. If they so much as mention, “medicare” right now, before the election, they will be demagogued and smeared to no end. They just need to get elected first.

      Hopefully after they get elected and gain control of the microphone they will get around to fully explaining the point – like what Paul Ryan is trying to explain – that people who are close to retirement and who rely on these programs will see no change and that the people who reform will affect are those who wouldn’t see any future benefit from the current programs, anyway, BECAUSE WE CANNOT FUCKING AFFORD IT.

      Fuck you Democrats and your goddam short term pandering.

      And fuck you too, Republicans, if you actually don’t fix it, which I think was the point of this H&R blog post in the first place.

      1. Medicare has been a train wreck coming for quite some time. The Repubs had control of Congress and the White House for 6 years and did nothing. Actually, they did worse than nothing. They passed the prescription drug benefit and made it worse. Why would you believe they’ll do something this time once they get elected when they won’t even get up and say that they’ll do it?

      2. They won’t talk about it if/when they take congress this year. “Oh noes, that boogieman in the white house will just veto it and we’ll get swept out of office in 2012. We must wait.” Then if they do get the white house in 2012 “Oh noes, if we pass it now, the dems will take back congress in 2014 and then the terrists win.” Extend this meme until total fucking bankruptcy.

    3. From their perspective this is right. But from a Libertarian’s perspective I certainly want Reps in.

      I tend to prefer Reps in office because you can get anyone to vote for spending money, whereas most of the Rep social priorities I most dislike they’re on the defensive anyway. But even if you believe the opposite isn’t divided government the best result?

      The last thing I want is to push seniors back to the Dems. If he wins this election and convinces himself he has a further “mandate” there’s no telling what he’ll try.

      1. How do you make an 80 year old southern woman like having a black president?

        Have him veto substantive medicare/SS reform.

        1. Southern? Are you a fucking bigot or what?



          Fece-eating prick?

    4. So what’s the excuse for undoing existing cuts that the Democrats voted on? You’re right that Rs will get attacked for even the barest of cuts to Medicare. Based on their behavior they have no problem doing the same to Ds. That’s why the whole “Woe is us, politics and optics won’t let us talk about entitlement reform” argument doesn’t really impress me.

  6. Meet the new boss…

  7. The GOP has also been infected by the modern political sclerosis.

    The ‘Pledge to America’ is what… 42 pages long? The “Contract with America” was like two pages.

    It’s like watching the European Union try to write out a constitution.

    I laugh at the GOP.

  8. Wait a minute…libertarians are all GOP shills. What’s this article even doing here?

    1. The Illuminati ordered Koch to write this article to try to deceive us. Too bad we already know they’re poisoning our water.

  9. “It’s time for us as Americans to have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges that face our country,” Boehner said Thursday[.]

    “Adult conversation” as in misrepresenting and obfuscating their role in increasing government, imposing the unPatriot-ic Act, No Child Left Alive, Drug Proscribing War, illegal wars, giving away MY MONEY to Israel (and her enemies as well,) among other insults to the Constitution…

  10. “The conservative defense, best expressed by National Review’s Kevin Williamson, is that it’s unrealistic to expect too much action or specificity from the party given the limited political prospects for large-scale reforms in the coming years.”

    this morning’s WSJ unsigned editorial pretty much said the same thing:…..oveLEFTTop

  11. The GOP clearly wants to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

    No. The GOP wantsx to convince the electorate that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. All evidence from the 6 years of GOP governance (2001-2007) indicates otherwise.

    How many goddam times does Lucy have to pull the football away before fiscal conservatives get it?

    The GOP will not address America’s fiscal problems in any significant way. They had their chance and ran like the wind in the opposite direction.

    I belive the Republicans will actually do something fiscally responsible as much as I believe the Dems will actually do some about government encroacment od our liberties.

    Not one fucking bit.

    1. The fiscal conservatives are “getting it.” Witness the primary election defeats of several GOP incumbents who didn’t.

      No political party is going to commit suicide over this issue. Reform will come about only if and when it is clear that 51% of the people back the reform. So it is up to non-partisan libertarian and fiscal conservative organizations to begin the educational and debate process. Given the electorate’s belief in Santa Claus, I would not expect more than marginal reforms to ever be enacted.

      1. This is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Seniors Always Need Trillions Act, which will ensure that my opponents’ plans to make Grandma eat cat food while they steal her house can never come to fruition. Now that I think about it, they probably intend to sell Grandma to the Friskies corporation so they can make her into cat food, which they will then sell to your great aunt Agnes.

        1. There goes my opponent again, with his red herrings claiming I’ll feed seniors to cats. For the record, I love cats, have two of my own, and have far too much respect for them to feed them the skin and bones of grizzled old seniors. Quite the opposite.

          In a show of bi-partisanship – and my opponent doesn’t know this yet – I’ll be co-sponsoring his party’s Senior Liquidation Act of 2011. This bill will massively reduce the Medicare rolls, thereby reducing the program’s costs. To avoid large expenditures in administration, we’ll be going old school, relying on technology developed in Europe in the 1930’s.

          That’s all the details you’ll need. Just trust us.

          1. If they did it in Europe then it has to be good!

    2. “”How many goddam times does Lucy have to pull the football away before fiscal conservatives get it?””

      Their capacity to “get it” is equal to Charlie Brown’s.

  12. Well, republicans have learned a lesson from the Obama Administration. He ran on a platform of “hope” (god, the electorate is so fucking stupid). The ‘pubs have began to see the blowback against his administration. So now, they figure they’ll just run on a platform of “it’s hopeless.” Can’t argue with that logic eh?

  13. Old people like Medicare. Old people vote, a lot. Republicans want to get elected, do not want to piss off old people. Film at 11.

    1. It’s a rerun.

    2. Guess I should have read the comments first, since I posted almost this exact comment downthread.

  14. Don’t worry guys…

    Today, the REPUBLICANS are the party of NO.

    After November, the DEMOCRATS will play that role.

  15. There is no way out without massive tax increases, massive spending cuts, serious inflation, or some combination of the three. Anyone who says otherwise is not serious. Anyone who says we need to tackle “waste and fraud” is not serious.

    Most likely, some cosmetic reforms will be passed that will do nothing to alter the underlying problem, stated above. The problem will continue to get worse, until it starts to break the bank. At that point, whichever party is in power – they’re no different anyway – will institute emergency cuts and tax increases. Chaos likely ensues.

    1. I thought Cristy in Jersey was addressing this sort of stuff?

      Didn’t he pass laws that prohibit municipalities from raising property taxes after the state cuts municiple funding ?

      1. So he says. At the same time he’s promising drastic cuts in state expenditures, he’s proposing that the state take over Atlantic City and run it the right way. What will that mean? Lots of giveaways to the rich, lots of fucking over for the poor (sorry about that inexpensive apartment, gotta develop!).

        IOW, Christie is your bog-standard Republican-Democrat: cut benefits, raise taxes, or both on regular people, bales of free money for the rich. Fuck him right in his fat fucking ass.

        1. Sorry to hear that.

          That stopping municipalities from raising property taxes came after Kristi Whitman cut state income taxes and ALSO cut municipal funding. The municipalities then RAISED taxes like crazy

          1. And then She said that it wasn’t her fault.

            1. No way you can put Christie and C.T. Whit-less into the same bucket, at least not until Christie blows $200M of our money on a no-bid contract (Whit-less and the DMV emissions testing equipment fiasco.)

              Seriously, he’s kicking Dems around where they live on several matters, and I haven’t seen the handouts to billionaires yet (I AM watching – no RINOS!!) I think it’s beautiful and long overdue.

              As for the shithole known as Atlantic City – it can’t become any more corrupt and rotten and regressive than it’s been under mostly Democrat New Jersey. Best thing Christie can do is end the city’s dirty monopoly on non-lottery gambling (the Mafia couldn’t have ASKED for a better deal all these years.) If northern Jersey doesn’t start getting some BlackJack revenue, Eastern PA will simply build more casinos, and that money will leave the state.

    2. One day we will wake up and a Treasury auction will have failed. At that point, there will not be time for emergency spending cuts and tax increases. All hell will break loose in world financial markets, making Lehman Bros and AIG look like child’s play.

      1. Am I a sick fuck for anxiously awaiting said day of wreckoning (spelling intentional)?

        1. I don’t think it’s going to be great for anyone who doesn’t have a cave with a lot of guns, ammo, and canned food in it.

          1. At least I can tell all the people who share the mass grave full of starvation and pestilence “I told you so, I fuckin told you”

      2. that is the problem… debt crisis dont gradually devlope… you play with more and more fire and then all of a sudden something snaps. The two parties will keep playing chicken with one another until we have a greece style debt crisis on our hands, except no one will be there to bail us out. This is the kind of stuff that brings nations to their end.

  16. If only Iris Chacon were running

  17. If Democrats could be counted on to do anything but demogogue any specifics Republicans put out there – in other words, if they for just one day could be serious about entitlement reform themselves, instead of consistently turning every proposed reform into a red herring – Republicans might not be so scared to death about being specific.

    And even then, if it were only elected and appointed Democrats doing the demogouging, Republicans may see that as a surmountable wall. But with the advance knowledge that the pig-pile will include NYT, WashPost, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and the bulk majority of minor media players, and most college professors in their captive audience lecture halls – yeah, that’s tough to confront directly.

    Peace is when both parties to a war stop shooting.

    1. Actually, peace can only be obtained if BOTH parties are afraid of each other. I.E. Nukes

      1. Well yes, but no dynamic will create that. When the parties are at odds in a big way, some scoundrel steps in and works out “bipartisanship,” which means “let’s put on a show like we’re fighting, while we get together in the backroom and screw the entire country.”

        The only enforcable fear is a third party that shakes them both to their cores. Tea Party + Blue Dogs = Hope

        1. Tea Party + Blue Dogs = BobHope

  18. Old people vote. A lot. Old people don’t like change. Old people like Medicare (and Social Security).

    There you go. It’s kind of amazing that the Republicans accuse the Democrats of destroying a socialized medicine program and that they are gung ho for it, but they do, and it kind of works, politically.

    1. And why r u amazed ???

      This is a country where people mail in their GOLD to a PO box in Miami in hopes of getting a fair deal.

  19. I think Libertarians can stop apologizing for the infamous blue-skinned candidate*, if the Republicans are offering up something as non-Earthling colored as Boehner.

    *pre-Avatar, therefore not cool.

  20. Considering the last time a Republican administration balanced the budget was, oh I don’t know – 1957 – I’m wondering what sort of credibility they have claiming this mantle. Besides maybe Dole, what major Republican considered a balanced budget a serious priority over cutting-taxes-even-if-it-expands-natl-debt economic policy? Debt is nothing more than more expensive future taxation; taking out a mortgage or a car payment plan still means you’re going to end up paying more in the long term, even if it means you get to keep more of your money in your pocket today. Until they reduce spending so drastically that we have no debt, I frankly have zero confidence in the GOP’s credibility.

  21. Politics is Big Time Wrestling. It doesn’t matter if you root for Johnny America or the Golder Sheik. At the end of the night, they are out together, in some sleazy dive, having drink on your and my dollar. It doesn’t matter who won the “bout”. There was no bout. There was a “show”. It’s “ABOUT” the concession sales.

    John Boehner is a member of the only real political party we have in this country…The Incumbent Party. They capitalize on the fact that while most people don’t like Congress, they believe that their particular guy is somehow different. It doesn’t matter if they have a D or an R after their name. The ONLY way we can have a relatively bloodless revolution in this country, is to recapture our government from the professional politicians, and put back the intended lawmakers of our Forefathers, the Citizen Legislators. Banning pensions for elected positions ought to be the first thing enacted by our Citizen Legislators. Those who intend to return to the community they serve, will have no problem with that.

    It is YOUR job to get rid of YOUR Incumbent. No one else can do that for you. It doesn’t matter if you like them. By being a cooperative member of the system that is stealing us blind…and especially a guy like Boehner, who knows *juuuust* how to go weak-kneed at the critical moments…they are guilty of perpetuating our demise. It doesn’t matter if they bring home the bacon, for your particular district. It’s STOLEN bacon. YOU vote out YOUR incumbent, and let everyone else vote our theirs. When that happens…..when we reach the tipping point, that all these guys know is possible…and every single one of them fears more than anything else…..we will have taken back our country.

    I like to tell candidates I’m donating money to, that I am looking forward to voting against them in the following election. A few of them have written back commenting on it, because they are smart enough to get it.

  22. “adult conversation”

    And if you’re under 75, you’re not an adult. So quit buttin’ into our conversation, you young whippersnappers.

  23. ”Those who intend to return to the community they serve, will have no problem with that.’

    Why do you think they *left* the communities they served in the first place? They were bored with their constituents and wanted to have a more interesting style of life, where you spend your days strolling down corridors decisively barking orders about Saving the Country, then at night relaxing in a hot tub with a nice lobbyist who explains why, as a true free-market supporter, you must vote additional subsidies to ADM.

    Of course, not every Congressman gets to live such an exalted lifestyle – there’s a lot of taking orders from political bosses who are even more arrogant and power-mad than you, pretending to listen to constituents who were too dumb to prevent your election despite your obvious disqualifications – and if someone’s *that* dumb, they’re really boring – and generally wasting time. And as for the hot-tub lobbyists, forget it – they’re too terrified of the media to even try associating with such, even if they could be found. For these Congressmen, the only thing that gets them up in the morning is the prospect of a nice fat pension. And you want to take that away from them? Sadist!

  24. “The Pledge to America is the same old ruse as the “Contract with America”. All Newt managed to accomplish was NAFTA, sending 8 million jobs overseas. Now the brain dead in Congress wonder why we have a “Jobless Recovery”. best story I’ve read:…..92410.html

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