Monday, December 10, 2012

More on the Fiscal Cliff, Medicare and Retirement Age


Over the weekend, Progressives were trying to come to terms with rumors reported by Ezra Klein and others of a deal involving raising retirement and therefore Medicare eligibility to age 67.

Here's my previous post for background:
Snark Lane: To President Obama and All the Smarmy Wonks in Washington

And here is my collection of quotes to give you an idea of the backlash towards Ezra Klein and Jonathan Chait over the weekend on Twitter and elsewhere:
Snark Amendment: Dems Pop Trial Balloon on Raising Retirement Age

I think my title on the second one is probably wishful thinking, since we don't really know whether this monstrosity is a fake trial balloon floated to make the "real" changes seem better to the base, or if it is nearly a done deal, as Klein and others seem to think. The course of action outlined by Jonathan Chait would be to raise the age, then move those under 67 to Obamacare to bolster the program. But why? To most people, Obamacare just took effect and isn't a tried and true program like Medicare. Life is confusing enough for the elderly new retirees without even more stress heaped on them by bureaucrats in Washington, and done just to make political points with a party that basically doesn't care . . . sorry, I seem to be ranting again - I'll stop.

There is some reason this bad idea keeps getting floated around. Most Democrats just hate the idea that we have to capitulate to the demands of the Republicans and the Tea Party after such a hard-fought campaign, especially to give them something they seem to desperately want in a sadistic way - to punish the elderly and the poor and the sick who need government assistance. *stops ranting again*

Here is a petition you can sign, if nothing else, to make you feel better:
Tell President Obama and Congressional Leadership: Don't accept any deal that raises the Medicare eligibility age or cuts benefits.

Joan Walsh has a great column summing up the whole mess:

Salon: Fiscal Cliff Cruelty
. . . it’s not just Chait who believes the deal is possible. Obama-doubting progressives like my friend Glenn Greenwald point to multiple reports that the president was willing to raise the Medicare eligibility age in order to reach a debt-ceiling “grand bargain” in 2011. And facing suggestions on Twitter (including from me) that the supposed Medicare proposal wasn’t genuine, Ezra Klein tweeted at me and Greenwald: “yes, given how widely reported that was, I’m baffled by the disbelief that age is in the negotiations.” He followed up, when people blamed the messenger (him) for the bad idea, by saying: “I don’t want to raise the Medicare age. I’m reporting that it may happen.”

There are so many things wrong with raising the eligibility age that I still can’t believe it’s under consideration. That’s not doubting Klein; it’s just a failure on my part to imagine that data-driven leaders — Republican or Democrat — would propose it. It doesn’t save money; it’s a shell game that just pushes costs around.

. . . Post-election polls find that two thirds of voters oppose increasing the Medicare eligibility age. Should this deal become reality, it would reinforce the cynicism Americans harbor about government – and about Democrats. Deservedly.
The truth is, Obama should be pushing to lower the Medicare eligibility age, to let those 55 and over opt to buy into the program with their own money. The premiums paid by a younger, healthier cohort would help stabilize the program, while the benefits of getting that population insured earlier would keep costs down later. That’ll never happen, you say? Well, we can make sure it’ll never happen if progressives never ask for it.
Honestly, the only real reason to throw seniors into the Obamacare pool is to put more people at the mercy of private insurance, and weaken both the economic and political basis for Medicare.

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