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Here's the opening gambit from the House GOP on the Medicare and Social Security bipartisan solutions called for by President Obama in his State of the Union.

WASHINGTON — Months after they hammered Democrats for cutting Medicare, House Republicans are debating whether to relaunch their quest to privatize the health program for seniors.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is testing support for his idea to replace Medicare with a fixed payment to buy a private medical plan from a menu of coverage options.

Party leaders will determine if the so-called voucher plan will be part of the budget Republicans put forward in the spring.

The National Journal reports this with a little more certainty: "The measure would be part of the House budget, which will be shaped next month. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the he expects Republicans to support the provision, which would require Medicare to give seniors an allotment of money to buy private coverage starting in 2021. The eligibility age would also be raised, from 65 to 69."

What digby said:

It's important to note one thing about this one, however. This is being done to position the Republicans for the looming "entitlement" battle. They will pretend to fight for this insane proposition and then reluctantly give it up in the "compromise." The Democrats, meanwhile, are floating a slight raise in the payroll cap or perhaps means testing of social security for which they too will fight until they are forced to give those positions up in the "compromise." And what will be left after both sides have given up their cherished desires?

You tell me. (And I'm sure you can see the problem here.) Whatever happens, the Democrats will undoubtedly tell us that the compromise saved the country all from crazy GOP privatization plans and we should be grateful for their stalwart defense....

Privatization of Social Security has been off the table ever since the crash and burn of the Bush attempt in 2005, and certainly since the stock market crash of 2008. Indeed, until the last couple of weeks, the only people who even mentioned it were tough talking Democrats who used it as a straw man to show how serious they were about protecting Social Security (and Paul Ryan.) But it's creeping back into the conversation for good reason. It's a very useful negotiating chip.

Social Security should be off the table entirely for the time being, judging by the negotiating ability we've seen thus far from the White House and Senate Dems. But this needs to be made clear nonetheless--avoiding privatization is not the benchmark for changes to Social Security or to Medicare. Any "solution" which involves slashing benefits--and that's pretty much the gamut from doing away with cost of living adjustments to raising the retirement age to means testing--will weaken the program and will be a loss, in terms of both politics and policy.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:16 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Obama can ride the Republican desire (13+ / 0-)

    to gut Medicare to victory in 2012.

    "Coupons For Elders" is not going to cut it with the American people.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:20:03 AM PST

    •  And perhaps we should call them (9+ / 0-)

      "Death Coupons for Granny."

      Still enjoying my stimulus package.

      by Kevvboy on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:20:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. Let them smash their forces... (0+ / 0-)

        with a frontal assault against an incredibly well-defended position, and then come out and rout them.

        Art is the handmaid of human good.

        by joe from Lowell on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:47:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Wrongs (why dignify them bay calling them the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kevvboy

          "Right?") are kind of like slime molds, that use various enzyme strategies to dissolve healthy biota to render them more edible for the mold organism.

          Kind of like "business interests" in general, all of which don't really "conspire" to render all things bright and beautiful into barren money, but hey, it's just part of the whole DNA of the Monetizers -- until you can put a price on something and sell it for more than the market can really bear, you're not doing your job of turning all richness into well-owned "wealth."

          Medicare is not perfect, just about any nurse or biller or coder can give you chapter and verse on what's wrong and the relatively simple things that could be done to cure the diseases. But I will not say, this time, that "we (the people) get what we deserve" if these greedy, parasitical, piratical Mother H. Truckers get away with privatizing SS or Medicare.

          Hey, FYI, in addition to people in the streets, you have this -- http://www.authorstream.com/... -- going on in Cairo...

          "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

          by jm214 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:52:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's a ploy... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jm214

            Obama will raise the age and cut the benefits in order to save Social Security.  Ed Schultz just interviewed some New York SEnator (D) who waffled his ass off when asked if Obama would protect it - or if he would.   Obama is going to screw the middle class again and claim he did us a favor.   He deserves to be a one term President.

            What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

            by dkmich on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 02:15:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  And be careful with your war metaphors-- the (0+ / 0-)

          Reds are adept at asymmetric warfare, and if you think you can sit in some "impregnable" Maginot Line Social Contract fortress and wait for the bastards to bring the battle into your fields of fire, you need to review Sun Tzu and the history of Vietnam and what's afoot in Notagainistan as we blog...

          "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

          by jm214 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:55:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But with this proposal, they ARE. (0+ / 0-)

            Just like in 2005, they're coming out into the open and marching right up to the front door.

            Art is the handmaid of human good.

            by joe from Lowell on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:00:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Better get some drones in the air (0+ / 0-)

              and start looking around at the rough terrain and in the shadows under the trees.

              "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

              by jm214 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:07:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Enough with the killing Republicans metaphors! (0+ / 0-)

                I'm a fucking retard.

                by Helpless on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 01:21:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Who said anything about killing? I was (0+ / 0-)

                  talking reconaissance only. Do you get that the folks who arrayed for battle on this issue are better suited to it? That they play a tougher game than "progressives" are able to any more? That MON$Y is what motivates them, the part about stripping it out of the General Welfare and adding to their piles?

                  If your comment was just ironic, sorry for the tenor of my response. Otherwise, spare me the political correctness "we're better than that" or whatever stuff. Warren Buffett: "Of course there's class warfare, and my class won." This is not about gentleness and honor.

                  "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                  by jm214 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 01:33:11 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  indeed but ONLY IF (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kevvboy

      we aloow them plenty of airtime and space to "debate" the issue.

      remember tat Kossacks.

      If we shoot the thing down right away, it gets NO attention.

      If it appears we're actually "listening" to them (even though we aren't), eventually it gets noticed in the MSM and the fight becomes very public. which is what we need.

      nerves of steel and a long-view are going to be required over the next two years if we are going to allow the GOP to show their true selves.

      Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I will tell you what you believe. h/t MeteorBlades

      by mdmslle on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:28:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama got what he wanted: Republican House (9+ / 0-)

      Now he can "compromise" to the horrors Obama's always wanted on Social Security.

      Your first hint: the "Deficit" Commission the President stuffed with crazy "conservatives" who have made it known they wanted to slash S.S. for decades on end.

      The President ran as a progressive to get elected, and governed as a Republican: now he's got the Republican House to help him do his dirty work.

  •  No, we should embrace and encourage them! (13+ / 0-)

    Like Bernie Sanders said on MSNBC a couple days ago, if these measures ARE NOT brought up in the Senate, HE will because he wants to force individual Republicans to have to vote on these things, going on record. Let them. They cannot pass them. So let's put THEM on the defensive and have them vote on Social Security, Medicare, etc...

    It'll either make them look like hypocrites and cowards, or show the over 65s (the ones who handed the House to the GOP) what the Republicans really think about programs that help the elderly, thus losing that vote for 2012.

    Where are all the jobs, Mr. Boehner? As a very proud gay American male, I am proud of the DADT repeal and am hopeful that ENDA will be law one day.

    by SimonBarSinister on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:21:17 AM PST

  •  Taking away grandma's health care (14+ / 0-)

    This would be a terrible political position for Repubicans to be taking if they were not getting extreme help from the press, and I don't just mean their own house organ (Faux News).  Medicare is very popular.  Private health insurance for the 55-65 year old set is already extremely expensive, and at 65 it would go up a lot more.  A voucher as they propose it would not buy a decent policy; only the wealthy could make up the difference.

    But we have to control the narrative.  The David Gregorys of the world are always looking to find a crisis in "entitlements", so this might appeal to the inside-the-Beltway pundits.  We have to make them feel foolish for buying into it.

    The real cost issue of Medicare is that it is part of our broken health care system, which is still set up to maximize profits for providers, not provide service efficiently.  So long as it's a business whose interest in helping people is merely a statistical measure of customer satisfaction, health care in the US will continue to get costlier, not better.

  •  "Giveaways" to Republicans on these points (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irmaly, Aspe4, jennylind, jm214, evangeline135

    will undoubtedly signal that the Democrats as a party are in full retreat and are no longer capable or willing to fight for and protect the basic tenets of the Democratic Party.

    The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    by MacJimi on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:22:51 AM PST

  •  Privatizing either Medicare of SS (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchlady, TomP, cassandracarolina

    will certainly confuse, if not infuriate, the GOP base of older and/or poorer folks who depend on both programs and trusted the GOP to control the deficit by slashing waste, fraud and abuse and foreign aid.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:26:33 AM PST

    •  It would frickin infuriate ME and I'm (0+ / 0-)

      In my early 50's.  Why?  Because I help my 89 year old mother pay her doctor bills and manage her money.  I've got enough going on, but for me to worry about her healthcare being F****d up, let me tell you.  It is not just the elderly who will be angry about this.  It's not bad enough I have to do battle with my own insurance company for my family when they go to the doctor, I can't even imagine the height of my anger if I had to do the same when my Mom went.  Thankfully, right now, her healthcare is one of easier things I deal with.

  •  We should open with removing (10+ / 0-)

    the limit (about 110,000) on which people pay taxs for social security.

    Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

    by TomP on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:27:57 AM PST

  •  Obama Will Start the Negotiations (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evangeline135

    by offering to resign.

    "With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program."-Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Aspe4 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:29:13 AM PST

  •  Love to know who insures old people who (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle, J M F, tardis10

    need the bulk of all their medical care when old and dying??

    vouchers...my 93 yr old MIL is at the doctor every damn day, can't kill her either. Who would insure her for anything close to an affordable rate?

    •  Why do we say "insure," for God's sake? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle

      Even repeating the word, over and over, however it might be used as just a placeholder for "you know what I mean" public option/single/payer/national health care, adds one little pebble to the bier that is burying the sad carcass of what ought to be the goal.

      Grandma and MIL DO NOT NEED FUCJKING "INSURANCE." THEY NEED "ASSURANCE" THAT MEDICAL CARE WILL BE PROVIDED AND AVAILABLE, through a mechanism that stamps out the profit-taking and rent-seeking in what ought to be a basic guarantee... What we got now is at best "UNSURANCE."

      WORDS COUNT! They're what we think in.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:04:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Private and Public Options (6+ / 0-)

    Perhaps there should be Medicare for All and a private option for Medicare participants.  Of course, the private option would have to have a 97% +/- medical loss ratio.

    •  There is a private option for Medicare (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coffejoe

      now...it's called "Medicare Advantage," but of course it's paid for out of tax revenue and actually costs considerably more per patient than regular Medicare, adding considerably to the program's cost...which is why the healthcare reform law includes a phase-out of those subsidies.

      Private insurance always costs more. Of course there's no reason not to allow people in a single-payer system to purchase additional, private insurance on top of single payer/Medicare, if that's what they want to do with their money...

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 01:01:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And yet that is what will happen.. (4+ / 0-)

    the Dems will capitulate to the whims of Rand Paul and Jim Demint, Not even the American people in this case..

    And when Those 2 vote for it, it will be BiPartisan..

    Heartbreaking..

    And hopefully wrong, but is smells a LOT like the "Public Option Debate" that was dealt away before it started.. again..  

    •  Good!. Do it. It will last about a month (0+ / 0-)

      when all the seniors who are not ex-hedge fund guys, can't buy insurance.

      •  No, Wally will take care of it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Losty, tardis10

        Suddenly reverse mortgages, to take care of health insurance costs, will become all the rage, and the talking heads on TV who've been against them will suddenly follow their bosses' instructions and be in favor of them.  Poor people will be told to use minute clinics, and then the simple Republican health care plan that Grayson outlined.

  •  This title could just be (0+ / 0-)
    "Beware Republicans"
  •  How to Negotiate 101, Yet Again Demonstrated (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J M F, tardis10

    by the Republicans.

    And when they get to course 102, they'll fight for every millimeter of their opening offer.

    Not that anyone could've anticipated such behavior.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:36:49 AM PST

    •  It didn't work out too well for them last time. (0+ / 0-)

      This is the same gambit they tried in January 2005.  Oddly enough, their brilliant strategery lost them both housed of Congress and the presidency.

      That's why I don't think we're going to see a "reasonable" counter-offer from the Dems this time, either.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:52:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Any solution that puts medicare in private hands (8+ / 0-)

    Is unaccepatble...

    As we have seen insurance compenies are very skilled at gaming the system...no matter what assurances are allegedly put in place insurance companies will figure some way around them...and that will only hurt seniors...

    Medicare is a very good system that can be made solvent by expanding the pool of eligible participants...that is what we should be working for rather than guaranteeing more customer for insurance companies to screw over!!!

    •  When insurance companies (4+ / 0-)

      ran up against the requirement in the new health care law that their policies had to cover children with pre-existing conditions, many companies simply refused to sell insurance policies for any children at all.  How long, I wonder, would they continue to offer any policy to seniors if Medicare were privatized.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:50:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's stupid (0+ / 0-)

      and insurance companies don't want older people as customers unless the government is paying the actual cost of their healthcare, in which case they are glad to offer supplemental or cost-plus "Advantage" plans ("Advantage" because they are taking "advantage" of Uncle Sam..)

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 01:03:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Republicans Hate YOU. (6+ / 0-)

    Totally.

    Completely.

    They want to steal your money, fuck up your job and income, ruin your children's education and piss in the Communal Nest by eliminating any part of government OTHER than the existing and thriving corruption.

    Too many liberals want to sing happy tunes and pray for these assholes and coddle them, show them love and understanding and all the GOP wants to do is crush your skulls in the dirt.

    Wake up and understand - a very nasty bitter fight is looming and WE should be ever so happy to fight it.

    We can sing Kumbayah after we beat them.


    In 21st Century America, guns are still considered safer than marijuana.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:37:21 AM PST

  •  Make them vote on it. (4+ / 0-)

    Call the bluff of the Republicans.  They like it?  They vote for it.

    The Tea People will love them for it.

    All 18% of them

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:41:39 AM PST

    •  But the teabaggers don't want government (0+ / 0-)

      messing with their Medicare...they will not be happy about this. Making the Republicans vote for this will indeed be very embarassing after all their promises to protect Medicare from "Obamacare" reforms...

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 01:06:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  pity obama didn't threaten to veto (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Aspe4, Brooke In Seattle, J M F

    any proposals that sought to privatize social security or medicare. only earmarks. maybe he likes to punish seniors and make them sweat with worry.

    i want my party back.

  •  Don't underestimate AARP (7+ / 0-)

    I understand why the role of AARP has long gone unrecognized.  We'd like to say WE defeated the privatization scheme of Bush and cronies.  I'm a member of AARP and I saw their efforts first hand in the previous battle.  If you think the NRA is a powerful lobby, you ain't seen nothing until you try to battle the AARP.  

    •  But AARP had done nothing of late to stop this! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coffejoe

      They put Boehner of the cover of their mag and they let him write his article condemning health care reform. The AARP is getting too arrogant. They even let their credit card affiliation charge 29.99%, so they really haven't been representative of anything recently. Look at poor FL. They elected a man as governor who led a company that bilked Medicare out of millions. His other co is under investigation for ELDERLY ABUSE. Scott should be in jail, not in the governor's mansion.

      E.McCarthy:"Republicans feed the sparrows by first feeding the horses".

      by CarmanK on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 02:36:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  AARP doesn't endorse candidates (0+ / 0-)

        They never have.  Their position on Social Security has been consistent since I've been a member.  I'm not an expert on AARP.  I wasn't a member when they raised the retirement age from 65 for full benefits, and I don't know how they handled that.

  •  Totally agree with the analysis (4+ / 0-)
    if you can't raise caps and leave it at that, everything else is bad for ordinary people, it is then better to do nothing at all.

    Opposing privatization is almost meaningless if we gut the benefits/raise retirement age to 69.

  •  Indiana and IBM (0+ / 0-)

    I heard the black Republican who has declared his candidacy (can't think of him by name) say that SS and Medicaire should be privatized with IBM.

    He needs to have a talk with Mitch Daniels.  Mitch made a deal with IBM and had to take it back.  IBM made a mess of everything.  I think it was for Indiana's child protective services?

  •  Whenever you hear (7+ / 0-)

    them say they want to "privatize" something, just say, You want to ENRONIZE what now?"

    That, and "They want to put Bernie Madoff in charge of your Medicare/Retirement/YouNameIt"

    Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

    by drewfromct on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:51:51 AM PST

  •  Umm, Medicare is already partially privatized (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffejoe

    There are HMO Medicare plans seniors can choose if they want.  They end up costing the government more than paying directly.  So what the Republicans are proposing is just eliminating any competing direct Medicare option.

    If this goes in a Republican budget, I hope the CBO notes the increased costs.

  •  I'm quite sure (0+ / 0-)

    All the old, fat white teabaggers riding around on medicare paid for scooters are real happy about this turn of events. I wonder what kind of cognitive dissonance will break out in their reptilian brains to rationalize how the republicans they voted in to "keep government's hands off my medicare" are now planning to strangle the program. Payback's a bitch.

    Just another day in Oceania.

    by drshatterhand on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:05:05 PM PST

  •  Republicans have taken the measure of Obama (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evangeline135, coffejoe

    And they know that whatever ridiculous far-right stand they take, Obama will agree to at least part of it.

    You must compete by working more for less. Mush!

    by Paleo on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:05:52 PM PST

  •  White House reaction? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10

    Or will this be another 9/11 responder bill situation where Jon Stewart will have to respond and save the day?

    You must compete by working more for less. Mush!

    by Paleo on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:07:20 PM PST

  •  OK, I got it (0+ / 0-)
    Call Ryan/GOP's solution "The Final Solution".  Now there's winning messaging.

    Freedom of religion is freedom FROM religion. Tweeting @dmiller23

    by DailyDrew on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 12:16:29 PM PST

  •  Sen. Reid: “I’m not going to be part (0+ / 0-)

    of moving a bill to the floor that really whacks senior citizens,” Reid told reporters Thursday evening."
    Reid: Gentlemen’s agreement does not cover healthcare reform repeal - TheHill.com

    Sen. Reid can stop them.

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