“People In My District Like Medicare”

Andrew Sullivan —  May 23 2011 @ 2:07pm

That was one Republican congressman's lament as the House majority stormed ahead with its endorsement of the abolition of the entitlement and its replacement by a voucher for private insurance. Scott Brown's opposition is rooted in, so far as one can tell, a belief that the vouchers would not keep up with the cost of healthcare (but that was a feature, not a bug, remember) and that "seniors should not have to bear a disproportionate burden." Well, seniors have it pretty great right now compared with many younger than them. Brown's proposal to cut the cost: fraud and abuse. Yep: we're back to those.

Digby looks ahead:

This is a huge political problem for the GOP. It could fade if the Democrats allow them to take it off the table. (The Politico article says that Joe Biden's bi-partisan group may do that, but it's hard to see how they can unless Democrats are total fools. Oh wait …) But there's nobody to blame except for Boehner, Cantor and Paul Ryan for this mess. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they'll pay for it with their jobs. The Democrats may be fools, but the Republicans are ruthless when their leadership fails them. Just ask Newtie. He knows all about it.

I've been wrestling with this for a while now.

I've come to agree with Gingrich that just ending the entitlement, after grandfathering in the entire boomer money-suck, is indeed too drastic an attack on an institution that has become welded to the public's understanding of their lives. That's called conservatism. But I can't merely suggest a war on waste can get us anywhere near where we need to go. Means-testing is an obvious answer, but if it goes too far, it discourages thrift. Some blend of more means-testing and brutal rationing seems to me the only way to go at this point. Which means doubling down on Obama's cost-control experiments, reducing free care for the wealthy retirees, and increasing the retirement age at a faster clip than we have thus far.

The demagoguing by the Democrats is predictable, sad, but also so powerful it's hard to see how any party could practically resist it. Alas, Mediscares may work for short term political advantage (we'll see how strongly in tomorrow's special election) but they have delayed real reform for far too long. I wish the GOP were able to work with Obama on this. But that was ruled out well before his election.