Republican Convention 2012

GOP Pushes to Become Seen as Medicare's Savior Despite Fiscal Destructiveness, Unfairness of Program

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If the first day and a half or so of the Republican National Convention is any indication, the 2012 confab is going to be remarkably light on anything approaching substance. Even Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) struggled to introduce anything resembling a vision or idea in his much-anticipated but mostly self-congratulatory speech last night.

One of the problems is simply that the GOP is doubling down on being an echo of the Democrats rather than a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo. You can see that in their actual budget proposals (to the degree that they exist): In a decade's time, Obama hopes the government is spending about $2 trillion more than it is now; the GOP Congress wants to spend $1 trillion more. In a country that is borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this is splitting hairs.

Nowhere is the Republican interest in echoing Democratic big government ideas clearer than on the issue of Medicare, the nation's health-care entitlement for the elderly.

Here's Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who along with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) has created something called "Resurgent Republic." He's talking with the Washington Examiner's Byron York:

Ayres found that by targeting Obamacare's Medicare cuts, and by presenting the Romney-Ryan plan as an effort to "preserve and protect Medicare for current recipients and future generations," Republicans can essentially tie the score between those who side with the GOP and those who side with Democrats. And for Republicans, long intimidated by "Mediscare" campaigns, having a Medicare argument of their own is a huge improvement from years past.

"Is that a different message for Republicans? Yes, it is," says Ayres. "Is it an uphill climb for Republicans? Yes, it is. Does it give Republicans a fighting chance to get a draw or perhaps even tilt the playing field in our direction? Yes, it does."

Ayres pushes the line that Obama has slated over $700 billion in cuts to Medicare in the context of health care reform, so really voters should understand that Medicare is being saved by Republicans who might talk about nibbling around the edges but really really really want to "preserve and protect" the program. Indeed, think back to George W. Bush's expansion of Medicare to include subsidized prescription drugs for seniors. That program was passed by large Republican majorities over vocal (though by no means unanimous) Democratic opposition.

What's not to like in maintaining Medicare via Ryan's suggestion that seniors be given large amounts of free money to buy their insurance? First and foremost, Medicare is not a program that should be preserved and protected. More than any other single program it is bankrupting the country. Designed consciously by LBJ as the last act of New Deal-era Social Security reforms, it addressed issues that are no longer in play. As Veronique de Rugy and I wrote in the August-September cover story for Reason, especially if you believe in a government-provided social safety net you should want to tear up this program and replace it with a targeted and sustainable plan. Even when you subtract Social Security and Medicare payments, seniors are wealthy and they should be expected to pay for their own health care and retirement. If they are too poor or incapacitated to do so, the state can help them out. But there is simply no compelling reason that relatively poor and younger voters should pick up the tab, either through regressive and sure-to-increase payroll taxes and debt payments.

Put slightly differently: If you're a Republican voter who dislikes government control of health care, you should be working tooth and nail to get rid of Medicare, which is a government-run single-payer health care system. As a decade of failed attempts to reduce doctor-reimbursement testify, Medicare can't be "reformed." It needs to be abolished.

The starting point of Matt Welch's and my book The Declaration of Independents (newly out in paperback with a timely introduction!) is that the GOP and the Democrats have been leaking market share since the early 1970s. Literally millions of voters have disaffiliated with the Dems and Reps since 2008 alone. I'd argue that's not happening because the two parties are offering such wildly different programs that, like Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter, voters are just so confused they don't know where to turn. Rather, it's because the parties for all their partisan bluster and rhetoric, are rapidly becoming indistinguishable when it comes to supporting the policies that have helped wreck the economy and darkened our future.

To be fair, it's probably asking too much for its national convention to be the place where the GOP (or any party) rolls out bold new ideas that represent some actual change of direction. But here's hoping.

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  1. I would love to kill medicare too Nick. Maybe you can invent a time machine and go back to 1964 and keep it from being passed in the first place. Absent that, the country is not going to vote for anyone who vows to kill medicare.

    I suppose you could root for Obama to win in hopes that he will do nothing and the entire country will go bankrupt killing medicare with it. Indeed, I am pretty sure a lot of people on this board are doing just that. But it is a bit much to expect the Republican Party to do that.

    If we lived in a sane world, a liberal would have come up with the Ryan plan because if it were enacted it probably would save medicare. And liberals are supposed to love medicare. But Democrats and liberals have gone insane. They really seem to believe that we can do nothing and kick the can down the road. While some librarians think national bankruptcy will bring about a small government, liberals seem equally convinced that national bankruptcy will bring about full on socialism. I am not sure who is right. But I would prefer not to find out.

    So Nick, given that actively arguing for ending medicare is a sure political loser and guaranteed to ensure nothing is done, what should Republicans be arguing for?

    1. “MOST PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON SEEM TO THINK that we can control spending and balance the budget without reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is lunacy.

      Identify and implement common-sense cost savings to place Medicare on a path toward long-term solvency.”

      Seems Gary Johnson wants to save entitlements also. Where’s a true libertarian to turn?

      1. and the link is marked as spam with not text:

        http://www.garyjohnson2012.com…..he-deficit

    2. At some point, politically “impossible” loses to economically impossible. Note the lack of scares quotes around the real impossible.

      That time hasn’t come yet, but it will if nothing serious is done, regardless of how many voters object.

      1. That is just it Pro. Something will be done. Nick needs to lay off the crack if he thinks some day America will see the true Libertarian light and decide to scrap these programs voluntarily. So killing them is not an option. Given that, what does Nick want to do? As Camping points out above, even Johnson says he wants to save these programs.

        1. “even Johnson says he wants to save these programs…”

          He’s pretty vague on the details also. Maybe all those legislative proposals are outlined in his LP convention speech?

          1. “Maybe all those legislative proposals are outlined in his LP convention speech?”

            Nope…just some things about loving his parents and fiance and being an athlete. I am disappoint.

        2. The political course of a bankrupt and desperate America is more likely to resemble Peronist Argentina than Hong Kong.

          As much as the “tear it down to build it up” argument is emotionally appealing, the fact is that no western democracy that I know of has gone that route.

          At this point, the only way I can see libertarianism taking root anywhere in the USA is through a national crack-up. Some of the smaller resulting countries in the mountain west might embrace something resembling libertarianism.

          1. I’d say the best way to fix something like that is to drop-kick rather than punt, meaning that you score some points down the field in time rather than completely deferring the decision to some future receiving team.

            1. You say to people “voucherize the Medicare system” and they look at you as if you have cauliflower growing out of your ears.

              You purchase, with your own money, every other aspect of your life’s necessities from private entities, but they can’t imagine paying for their own health care.

              It’s fucking twisted. What is so radical about saving your money up for regular health care and having catastrophic coverage?

              1. Like all things, this needs a technological solution, like immortality.

              2. What is so radical about saving your money up for regular health care and having catastrophic coverage?

                You just want poor people to be dying in the streets don’t you?

              3. You purchase, with your own money, every other aspect of your life’s necessities from private entities,

                For a big and growing chunk of Americans, this is not true.

        3. Given that, what does Nick want to do?

          Not speaking for Nick, but I say save up on hard currency, guns and ammo and let them collapse. It’s bound to happen.

      2. ^^THIS. Europe is seeing this happen now. So is Stockton, CA

      3. At some point, politically “impossible” loses to economically impossible. Note the lack of scares quotes around the real impossible.

        That time hasn’t come yet, but it will if nothing serious is done, regardless of how many voters object.

        Not any time soon.

        We’ll get real death panels and hyper inflation first. And that can last a very long time. The soviet union was a shithole when it was established and yet it survived for six decades including through the most destructive war in human history.

        America today is orders of magnitude wealthier than Russia was in 1917. Enough wealth to feed a parasitic state for generations or centuries before oppressing the masses becomes so burdensome that the masters just give up, ala the SU or China in the 90s.

        And even then, liberty and prosperity will be ‘restored’ to much lower level than we have today.

    3. You’ve got to keep your eye on those wild-eyed librarians, for sure.

      1. I went to one of their meetings once in DC. They’re crazier than the LP.

    4. While some librarians think national bankruptcy will bring about a small government,

      The armageddon myth of libertarians.
      A final collapse of the flawed social order followed by utopia.

      Never mind that there’s absolutely no reason to believe libertopia follows collapse, and plenty of historical evidence of the opposite. Or that we have a very long way to fall and all the human misery that doing so will entail.

      Nope, just fantasize about a perfect future instead of deal with an imperfect reality.

      1. I’m a libertarian, and I’m on record believing that a collapse will be followed by a stronger, not weaker, central government. Probably of the authoritarian variety.

        I suspect that U.S. totalitarianism, if it comes, will resemble that of the early Roman Empire. Superficially, it will look like a constitutional republic. But it will be one or few-man rule, regardless of appearances.

    5. Gillespie is just like most of the other Reason writers. He doesn’t have a clue what to do, but he is quick to offer criticism of anyone that puts forth an idea. Typical Libritarian idiot.

      1. I am pretty sure that continuing down this fiscal path is not the answer, which is exactly what the Republicans want to do.

        Both parties desperately want to kick the can down the road. Sen. Paul, for example, introduced the oh-so-radical idea of merely spending freezing, and the Party did exactly zero with it.

        If you want to know why your pathetic Party is not taken seriously, look in the mirror.

        1. Read Gary Johnson’s site Randian. He seems to want to reform and keep the entitlement system too.

          Tell me how Johnson’s plan is really that much different from Ryan’s plan? The only thing I can see is that it starts now and not in ten years. That is a significant advantage. But it is certainly not ending any of these programs but in fact reforming them and ensuring their existence.

          So I ask again, is Johnson a big government fake too?

          1. Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to submit a Balanced Budget this very year?

            Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to cut Defense?

            Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to repeal Medicare Part D?

            Of course I don’t.

            1. “Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to submit a Balanced Budget this very year?

              Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to cut Defense?

              Do I hear the GOP saying they are going to repeal Medicare Part D?

              Of course I don’t.”

              What difference would it make if “they” did? It would just be a lie and GJ really means it.

            2. I didn’t say Johnson’s plan wasn’t better Randian. But Johnson clearly intends to preserve and protect entitlements. And Nick is up here telling us how the Republicans are fake because they adopted the Ryan plan with the same goal.

              So I will ask you again, since Johnson also intends to preserve entitlements, isn’t he equally guilty by Nick’s standards?

              If not, why not? Johnson wants to keep federal spending well over a trillion dollars for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t sound like much of a small government guy to me, at least not by the standards Reason applies to Republicans.

    6. While some librarians think national bankruptcy will bring about a small government, liberals seem equally convinced that national bankruptcy will bring about full on socialism. I am not sure who is right.

      I’m not sure about librarians, but a lot of libertarians do seem to have deluded themselves into thinking that a complete collapse will give us a chance to rebuild the government as a small, limited government. They’re completely wrong, IMO. Too many people are used to turning to the government to “solve” all of their piddly ass problems. When the collapse comes, people are most likely going to go full retard.

  2. But Obama is black on the right side- all of his people are black on the right side.

    1. We replaced black and white with red and blue, too, which is better.

    2. This will not stand.

      Well, okay, maybe it will. But still – I’m outraged.

      1. I demand. . .a sacrifice! Besides, our images are better. Nick should’ve stolen them.

        1. I’m cancelling my subscription!

          1. I’m subscribing to your cancellation!

          2. I didn’t donate enough to get a subscription. So I’ll have to give them another $20 to get a subscription to cancel.

  3. MOST PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON SEEM TO THINK that we can control spending and balance the budget without reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is lunacy.

    * Identify and implement common-sense cost savings to place Medicare on a path toward long-term solvency.
    * Block grant Medicare and Medicaid funds to the states, allowing them to innovate, find efficiencies and provide better service at lower cost.
    * Repeal President Obama’s healthcare plan, as well as the failed Medicare prescription drug benefit.
    * Fix Social Security by changing the escalator from being based on wage growth to inflation. It’s time for Social Security to reflect today’s realities without breaking trust with retirees.

    http://www.garyjohnson2012.com…..he-deficit

    That is straight off the Gary Johnson website Nick. That sure sounds like “preserving and protecting medicare” to me. Is Johnson a big government fake too?

  4. MOST PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON SEEM TO THINK that we can control spending and balance the budget without reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is lunacy.

    * Identify and implement common-sense cost savings to place Medicare on a path toward long-term solvency.
    * Block grant Medicare and Medicaid funds to the states, allowing them to innovate, find efficiencies and provide better service at lower cost.
    * Repeal President Obama’s healthcare plan, as well as the failed Medicare prescription drug benefit.
    * Fix Social Security by changing the escalator from being based on wage growth to inflation. It’s time for Social Security to reflect today’s realities without breaking trust with retirees.

    That is straight off the Gary Johnson website Nick. That sure sounds like protecting and preserving medicare to me. Is Gary Johnson a big government loving fake too?

    1. Is Gary Johnson a big government loving fake too?

      Most likely. He is running for president after all

      1. That doesn’t seem to be the company line at Reason

        1. The fact that they may be wrong doesn’t mean that you’re automatically right.

    2. Social security can be fixed pretty easily.

      Gradually raise the retirement age, something like on month per year and increase the revenue going to SS by
      a)increasing the SS tax cutoff or
      b)tax back benefits for the top 10% of earners or
      c)institute a death tax that recaptures the excess of benefits paid over taxes collected.

      Politically it’s impossible but technically it’s easy.

      1. Increasing current revenue over the amount current payout does not do a damn thing. The excess revenue will be put into the general fund, just like it is now. Do you think there really is a “lock-box”? SS is and always has been a pay as you go system and not insurance.

  5. “One of the problems is simply that the GOP is doubling down on being an echo of the Democrats rather than a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo.”

    This is only a “problem” if you want the GOP to lose by a landslide.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi…..64.svg.png

    1. Would that both Teams lost by a landslide.

        1. Unfortunately, the electorate prefers the Teams we’ve got to any proposed alternatives, including libertarians.

          Not coincidentally, it’s just like the Republicans and Obama criticizing each other without offering specifics. The great mass of American people may dislike what’s on offer, but you couldn’t get them to agree on something else to replace it. (This is true of specific issues as well, like Obamacare.)

          1. I would literally sell my home and donate every dime of the profits, if one or both Teams were caught open-mic style (think of Lonesome Rhodes doing himself in at the end of A Face in the Crowd) saying how much they hate ordinary Americans, if such would piss off the citizenry enough to say “fuck off forever” to both groups of criminal thugs.

  6. One of the problems is simply that the GOP is doubling down on being an echo of the Democrats rather than a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo.

    In other words, they’re nominating Romney?

    1. It occurs to me that Romney would be a good nominee for the Democrats as well.

      1. Sure.

        Complaining about it now is understandable, but acting shocked is a bit of closing the barn door after the horses have left.

        If the GOP wanted a full-throated alternative, they would have nominated someone else. And for all the whining about the treatment of Ron Paul delegates, parliamentary procedure may be important, but when you’ve got significantly more delegates than popular vote, that doesn’t prove that you’re more popular, only that you have more committed people.

      2. Romney would be the kind of Democrat we could live with. If this were 1968, Romney would probably be a Democrat and a successful one. Sadly the Joes and the Tonys of the world own that party now. And no one who is even remotely reasonable on about anything stands a chance.

  7. You’re right that Medicare is awful but “a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo” would lead to a Goldwaterian electoral massacre of the GOP. This would give Obama the opportunity to develop into more of a tyrant than he already is. Obama would be able to implement Obamacare, robust carbon controls, and who knows what else.

    Is Ryan’s plan good? Not really but at least it doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of the senior voting bloc and buys America some time — and it can be changed in the future.

    This column is typically nihilistic libertarian navel-gazing. Americans have to be weaned off their addiction to “free” government goodies and this can’t be done in one election cycle. This is the wrong hill to die on.

    In this column I argue that (for once!) the GOP is making a smart political move on the issue of Medicare: http://bit.ly/SqKLJG

    1. And Nick ignores the fact that Gary Johnson doesn’t give a “full throated Goldwaterian alternative” either. No one is doing that not even the Libertarian Party candidate because everyone knows that is not realistic. This post is totally disingenuous.

      1. So because the Libertarian candidate has a much better plan than the Republicans, Nick is supposed to lay into him?

        How does that work?

        1. If Nick is going to lay into the Republicans for not offering a plan to kill the entitlement state altogether, then yes, he needs to lay into Johnson when Johnson doesn’t intend to do that either.

          Republicans are supposed to do their duty and commit electoral suicide but Gary Johnson is not?

        2. Again Randian, is it not true that Gay Johnson pledges to preserve the entitlement state? Is it also not true that even if Johnson did everything he says he will, federal spending would still be well over a trillion dollars and the entitlement state would still be there?

          Would that be an improvement? Sure. But if the standard is anyone who doesn’t go full Goldwater is a fake, Johnson is just as much of a fake as Ryan or Romney.

          1. Even Ron Paul said that we had to provide a compassionate transition from Social Security and medicare. Johnson has said similar things. How is this “preserving the entitlement state.” As long as the trajectory is earnestly and persistently away from the entitlement state — which it will never be under Obama or Romney — isn’t that at least a noteworthy, substantial start?

            Are you serious that cutting the Federal government by 43% will still still leave $1T in spending? 43% is the level of (true) cuts that Johnson wants to make right away, in a budget that he insists be balanced. Again, a major distance in the right direction.

    2. Go blogwhore somewhere else, Red Apologist Hack.

  8. Medicare has become too popular now for any politician to successfully propose being rid of it–unless a better alternative is concurrently put forth. Ideally, a new slate of reforms would address the pricing problems inherent to healthcare, putting all Americans back on the same footing, where none are entitled to be supported by the others:

    http://whatdirectdemocracymigh…..mon-sense/

  9. Unfortunately “a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo” would probably require, as John alluded to earlier, a time machine to travel back to 1964 to prevent Medicare from being enacted in the first place. I would also say, while we’re there, that doing something to somehow get Goldwater elected instead of LBJ would be a good idea too.

  10. I only wish that Saturday night Live would steal the idea implied by the illustration for a sketch. What a classic THAT would be.

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