Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Games People Play

So, the big budget game begins with a shot over the bow from the right, as the Paul Ryan cannon fires its big budget, cutting four trillion dollars in ten years. The right wing, some of it, is delighted because at last the right wing is doing more than just shouting at our pinko-commie-fascist president. The left wing is . . . silent.
As I best understand it, Mr. Ryan proposes to eliminate Medicaid, give Medicare to the Insurance Industry, and reform the tax code, without actually increasing any taxes, especially on corporations or the über-rich.
How does he eliminate Medicaid? By converting it into a block grant. While the states now largely control Medicaid, they do so within the limits of Federal regulations. The Feds pay half, the states pay half, but the states are not free to do what they want. Under Mr. Ryan’s plan, as a block grant, the states will be freer to work their will. As I see it, a block grant will largely kill off Medicaid, since states notoriously drive to the bottom when it comes to spending on the poor.
On Medicare, whereas Mr. Ryan exempts current recipients of Medicare from his changes (thereby nullifying their political interference, he hopes) he converts Medicare for future seniors to a voucher, allowing them to buy insurance from the industry. Whatever the merits of his voucher plan, it will never improve on a single payer system that eliminates the industry altogether. He characterizes his plan as taking the decisions away from 33,000 bureaucrats and giving it to 330,000,000 Americans who will then use the wonders of modern free capitalism, with all its competitive advantages, to buy the best health care at the least amount of money. Oh, if only that was the way today’s health insurance market worked. Alas and alack, it doesn’t work that way. Instead of 33,000 bureaucrats, we have several thousand private sector insurance executives and stockholders making the decisions, mainly so as to enhance their bonus and payout opportunities.
And on taxes, Mr. Ryan punts on the subject of raising taxes to pay for the current debts, largely brought to us by the Republican Party. While he proposes reforming the tax code, to do so without increasing the tax revenue base converts his effort to the level of farce.
So, we now have one proposal from the serious right wing. It is the turn of the serious left wing to bring in their proposal and lay it on the table. We need to bring down the deficits and the National debt. We began that promise under, oh let’s see, it was Mr. Clinton I think. Then we reversed course under the Shrub and have been drowning in debt ever since. So, let’s get serious. We need both expenditure cuts and tax increases. Otherwise we are doomed.
Mr. President . . . Mr. Reid . . . Ms. Pelosi??? Your turn.
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