Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fixing Medicare The Right Way

David Brooks, on the 5/27/11 PBS Newshour program, states, "...the lesson for both parties is never touch Medicare...The problem is we can't afford that."

Of course we can't afford it. We don't even have negotiations on prescription drug prices, which alone would save an estimated $24 billion per year. What we need is a stronger Medicare system, not a "Wall Street-dominated healthcare system."

What we need is what other western countries have, and that is universal single-payer healthcare. What we need is H.R. 676, "The United States National Health Care Act," which was introduced by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. on 2/11/2011. But with corporate money funding re-election campaigns on both sides of the aisle, common sense approaches have little chance of getting through Congress.

Instead, what we are getting are GOP plans to privatize Medicare and cap premium support at the rate of overall inflation. After running up the debt, Republicans are now using that debt as an excuse for agenda-driven cutting of social programs, and Democrats are falling all over themselves to agree that we must cut spending. But with the conservative's refusal to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, to end corporate welfare, and to end special tax rates for capital gains and "qualified" dividend income, debt and deficits will not be reduced. Social Security does not contribute to the debt, and could be fixed for generations solely with the cap raised for Social Security taxes, but conservatives continue to cry out for higher retirement ages and lower benefits. And this is for a program with a $2.6 trillion trust fund.

Continuing to blame the national debt and the huge deficits on Obama, on social spending, on government regulations and oversight and environmental policies, on high taxes on the wealthy and other "job creators," and on mythical freeloaders of a welfare state, is partisan politics with no basis in reality. The Republican plan for Medicare is just more of the same.

So, yes, we cannot afford to not touch Medicare. But implying that the GOP is on the right track is just buying into the GOP corporate view of the world. Privatizing Medicare and shifting even more of the costs of government onto the middle-class is the conservative answer. Theirs is a philosophy of individual responsibility with no social responsibility. The GOP has given us financial deregulation and a boom and bust cyclical economy. They have given us an ever-increasing debt starting in the Reagan years and accelerating phenomenally in the last Bush era. It is time to take the rich man's hand out of the poor man's pocket, and to start taking a look at real solutions.

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