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If reports from D.C. whiz kids like Ezra Klein are true, then I should feel good about my new status as a Medicare bargaining chip. It seems as part of the latest "grand bargain" negotiations to get a deal with Congressional Republicans, President Obama has put raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 on the table. We are told by Beltway wise guys that this is necessary because Republicans must have a "trophy" (as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi so elegantly put it last week) to help them build up their self esteem after a tough election season. If they don't get their trophy then they threaten yet again to wreck the world economy when it comes to raising the debt ceiling -- a matter of political "leverage" gleefully embraced by Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham have.

Klein represents a smart, analytic approach to my life as bargaining chip. In yesterday's Washington Post, he notes almost an afterthought to the all-important political maneuvering that, well, some seniors might be hurt:

And it shouldn’t be forgotten: Raising the Medicare eligibility age really will hurt some seniors. The poorest seniors will be okay, thanks to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act — though that assumes that by the time the age increase phases in all states are participating in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or that the deal includes some protection for seniors in states that have rejected it. Richer seniors will be fine, thanks to their wealth or to their employers. But there are a number of middle-income seniors who make enough that they won’t get much help from Obamacare, who are sick enough that they won’t get a good deal from insurers, and who may end up going uninsured (after paying the individual mandate’s penalty) or straining under the cost of health insurance.
Does Klein realize what he is saying? Does he understand all the mechanizations that need to be in place -- such as assuming Medcaid won't get cut further -- for the millions of people from 65 to 67 who would not eligible for Medicare? Does he know the median annual income for folks on Medicare at age 65 is around $22,800, with 64 percent of all medicare recipients making $30,000 or under? That was according to 2010 studyby Kaiser. My point isn't to single out Klein (whom I read regularly) but to show how breathtaking shallow that D.C. policy debates can be.

 For the record, I am 57, a cancer survivor and a free-lance writer (or independent contractor) who can't even begin to think about a health care plan that would have me or that I could afford. I am literally counting the days until 1) I find a job that offer health care benefits or 2) Obamacare kicks in beginning in January 2014. In this economy, the Door #2 option is more likely. Needless to say, after having paid into Medicare for almost four decades, I was hoping for something better than being a bargaining chip, but life as we all know, is hardly fair. And really, we must consider the feelings of conservative Republicans who need their trophy and frankly need to be vindicated in their quest to destroy Medicare one step at at time without actually saying that's their true intention.

Alas, the reason I don't feel good about being a bargaining chip is that it appears I have become a cheap one. As Klein explained on Rachel Maddow's showlast week, the plan to raise the eligibility age to 67 would not even save actual money (as opposed to D.C. budget money). In accounting kabuki that Republicans love, such a move would save $5.7 billion while downshifting the cost of $11.4 billion to the health care system, states, employers, and yes, premium paying bargaining chips like me and many of you.

I also feel cheap because it appears President Obama is asking so little in return. The top rates may not even go up to the Clinton-era level of 39.6 (37 percent seems to be the new acceptable level: I guess the super wealthy have feelings to consider as well) and it seems as if little or no stimulus will be included in the ongoing grand betrayal talks even though everyone in their right mind knows a major stimulus push is what is needed to create jobs and growth. But then, as though in a Monty Python movie, we must absurdly salute the supply side religious faith that has failed again and again. Austerity, be thy name. Really, Mr. President, if you are going to betray millions and millions of liberals and progressives who supported you and use me as bargaining chip, at least get a substantial trophy of your own.

It would be better to tempt the ridiculously named fiscal cliff and actually get the rates you wanted in the first place and let the Republicans work on cutting taxes for the 98 percent come January. If Republicans don't want to extend unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut extension, remind the country of that every day.

And please President Obama keep your promise to not reward Republicans for playing the debt ceiling game. Tell the increasingly pathetic Lindsey Graham (a perfect example of a right-wing politician going right off the edge in the face of Tea Party wingnut primary challenge in 2014) and his ilk to grow up. It is hilarious to watch Graham go red-faced about the debt, the deficit and fearing the country will become another Greece -- which may become a scary self-fulfilling prophecy if Graham has his way. If you mean business, if you really mean to break their insane political fever, call their bluff. While many of the remaining Republicans are political mad hatters, there are enough rational minds to not give into the madness.

But then, what do I know. I am just a bargaining chip.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just remember that your sacrifice will help (4+ / 0-)

    protect the egos of hundreds of congressional Republicans. That should be an enormous comfort as you try to decide whether to give up food or health care.

    •  I know that's snark, Andrew, (4+ / 0-)

      but I hope you really know there are already plenty of people choosing between food and medical care.

      That's the current reality.

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 08:55:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a broader choice, actually (6+ / 0-)

        Chosing and prioritizing in this order:

        Real estate taxes, home/car insurances, roof over head/transportation

        Food/basic necessities

        Utilities

        Gas for car

        Helping grandkids with all those "school fees" so they can enjoy sports, braces, and the many niceties parents struggle to afford these days, even health care co-pays for the little ones.  How does a grandparent say no?

        Health care is at the bottom of my list and get's $0, although I look forward to paying $100+ for Medicare Part B next year (or 1/7th of my SSI check).  Does that money go to a private health care provider?  I can't figure out this question.  The Gov collects, but it looks privatized.  Too confusing for me to figure out, and I'm not a complete doid at figuring things out.  hmmm  Oh well.

        I can't see throwing my quickly diminishing nest egg at my slowly decaying carcass, which is how I see Congress viewing my demographic's value.  I might need that money for ever increasing real estate taxes so I don't lose the roof over my head.

        It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

        by War on Error on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:14:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Of course it is snark. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, jedennis

        But I am not sure that my congressman would think so.

  •  Perfectly stated, imo. Thank you. (5+ / 0-)

    Shame on DC.  I can't seem to find the words to express my outrage.  You have helped.

    Austerity is nothing more than a ploy to everything to be privatized, because, as we all know profit is a better motivator for social justice than.......well, shared sacrifice social justice (snark).

    btw, from what I have researched to date, Medicare is about 75% privatized anyway, unless we are willing to pay 20% out-of-pocket or more for health care.  The system seems designed to drain any nest eggs that we might have saved IF we actually require health care.

    Alan Grayson was correct.  If you get sick, die or go broke trying to survive.

    The US is not a humane society, as most agreed when I posted polls asking

    Is America a humane society?

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 08:39:44 AM PST

  •  Speculation. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara, fabucat

    Everything that is being "put out there" is SPECULATION.

    Ezra Klein doesn't quote any sources. He is SPECULATING.

    Hey if you want to base your total self-worth on the words of someone who is paid to SPECULATE and stir up public opinion, feel free.

    Were you also tearing your hair out because Republicans and the mainstream media wrote Obama off for nearly the entire campaign?

    How did that work out for you??

    There are only two types of Republicans: 1) racists; and 2) people who are willing to be associated with racists.

    by hillbrook green on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 08:41:12 AM PST

    •  Excuse me! (5+ / 0-)

      That's one of the Republican proposals, and it's an act of terrorism against the elderly. If you don't think that's frightening, it's probably because your health is not being threatened by political numbers games.

      Furthermore, your speculation about what the diarist thought on other issues is absurd.

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:00:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  HG shows a pattern of this type of comment. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, Mr Robert, jedennis

        Apparently, simultaneously using the word "speculate" as a response, and then composing disparaging remarks to a diarist for "speculating" - kind of mindboggling really.

        And not kind.

        It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

        by War on Error on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:06:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Gee, I'm flattered (0+ / 0-)

          that you are following my comments so closely as to recognize a "pattern".

          Read every single one? Every other one? Every 10th comment?

          You might want to reread this particular comment. At no point did I "accuse" the diarist of speculating. I "accused" him of "listening" to speculation and further "dignifying" speculation by repeating it.

          There's a difference.

          Maybe you read every 20th comment by me?

          I really am quite flattered by your attention....

          There are only two types of Republicans: 1) racists; and 2) people who are willing to be associated with racists.

          by hillbrook green on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:56:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My opinion of Republicans (0+ / 0-)

        can probably be discerned from my tag (for your convenience it is shown immediately below this comment).

        Do I think the Republicans are frightening on almost every level?

        YES.

        Do I think that the people I voted for (Democrats every one) are just as bad as Republicans?

        NO.

        I prefer to have a little trust in my political party. If I am betrayed, then I will handle that problem when it occurs. Until then I think it is a little bit silly to give credence to people running around proclaiming that the sky is falling. I just looked at the sky. It seems perfectly normal.

        But I really appreciate you calling me absurd. That is so productive.

        There are only two types of Republicans: 1) racists; and 2) people who are willing to be associated with racists.

        by hillbrook green on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 10:06:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No! (0+ / 0-)

          I did not call YOU absurd, but your speculation in light of your overall comment.

          I don't do name-calling and REJECT YOUR ACCUSATION.

          "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

          by cotterperson on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 10:45:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  whew! (0+ / 0-)

            glad we settled that. So I am not absurd. Only my opinions are absurd.

            At least I know who to call on the next time I am splitting hairs....

            There are only two types of Republicans: 1) racists; and 2) people who are willing to be associated with racists.

            by hillbrook green on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 11:03:36 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Speculate? (5+ / 0-)

      Thanks for reading and your comment though I'm not sure what your point is. If you read the post again you might see this: "My point isn't to single out Klein (whom I read regularly) but to show how breathtaking shallow that D.C. policy debates can be."

      For the record, Klein isn't alone and he's not getting this stuff from thin air. I know because I have been a political journalist for a long time and know when I am being used. This is an obvious trial balloon and not a new one. After all, even the White House said a Medicare age-raising proposal was on the table during the debt ceiling debacle in 2011. That is fact and not speculation.

      "think twice before you think" -- ee cummings

      by MMwriter on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:01:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay. (0+ / 0-)

        Apparently I misunderstood your intent in writing this diary.

        Your title:

        My life as a Medicare bargaining chip
        would seem to indicate a serious underestimation of your self-worth. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you have a huge sense of self-worth and just decided to downplay that sense in your title to draw people into your diary???

        Your statement:

        My point isn't to single out Klein (whom I read regularly) but to show how breathtaking shallow that D.C. policy debates can be.
        (emphasis is mine)

        Uhhh, if in fact policy debates are breathtakingly shallow (which I firmly believe) then why are dignifying these "breathtakingly shallow debates" by writing a diary that gives them credence? You are basically suggesting that Obama is going to cave on the most crucial policy debate of this century. Why? Because some paid hack like Ezra Klein says so?

        These people are paid to stir up shit so that they can sell their product. Even Rachel Maddow (saint though she is) has her moments of shit-roiling for no good reason - witness that cluster-fuck that occurred on her show following the first debate: "liberal" pundits creating a loss out of thin air.

        Your whole article is a reply to stuff that is said in "breathtakingly shallow debates". Lindsey Graham? Shit. I just mute the sound when he comes on the tube. He has ABSOLUTELY nothing to say that is truthful. Remember just a few weeks ago when he was ABSOLUTELY confident that Mitt Romney was going to win?

        And wasn't Ezra Klein one of the concern-trolls that was convinced that Obama couldn't win before and after the first debate?

        How quickly we forget.

        Come on. You obviously could have written a diary that expressed your concerns without automatically assuming that every word coming out of Washington is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

        It's all speculation.

        Instead of assuming that Obama is going to cave, why don't you write an article that praises what he has said and praises his obvious commitment to using his "mandate" to further the cause of the middle class and poor?

        There are plenty of people running around yelling that the sky is falling. Try to ignore those ignoramuses and focus on supporting your point of view instead of responding to gossip.

        Especially DC gossip....

        There are only two types of Republicans: 1) racists; and 2) people who are willing to be associated with racists.

        by hillbrook green on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:50:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Can't we all just play nice? (0+ / 0-)

      It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

      by War on Error on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:03:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It would not be speculation if it was denied (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jedennis, splashy, cotterperson

      It is obscene that it is even speculation.  It is obscene that it was not flatly denied.  

      This change in policy will literally kill people so that the wealthy won't be slightly inconvenienced.  

      This is like running over a pedestrian with your limo because you don't want to be bothered to stop at the light.

  •  I wish I could (6+ / 0-)

    rec this many times over.  That is precisely what is not being considered - people. I'm almost 65, but have had Medicare for years due to disability, but I know so many people who lost jobs in their late 50s and early 60s who simply hold their breath hoping to reach 65 before some serious illness hits. It's not a way to live.

    By the way, have you sent this to the President, the Democratic leadership, and your own Senators and Representative? Please do. This is what they need to hear over and over again.

    Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

    by ramara on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 09:32:01 AM PST

    •  Me, too. 2013 I get the long awaited Medicare (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ramara

      10 years with no health insurance due to many factors like having to stay home and care for my elderly mom, followed by some mysterious crippling disorder for a couple of years, followed by NO ONE in my area seems to be hiring my age group, followed by IS THE STATE OF UTAH NUTS, the cost for my insurance would have been nearly $8K a year as I was refused because I take a small dose "helps me sleep all night" med.  

      It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

      by War on Error on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 12:53:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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