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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 30, 2011

 
Their Own Worst Enemy

by digby


I've been watching the conservative movement for a long time now and I think I understand tham about as well as anyone. But they continue to surprise me in ways I shouldn't be surprised. For instance, I didn't think they'd be dumb enough to drop this Ryan plan in a presidential election cycle after they'd just demagogued the death panels and pulling the plug on grandma stuff. I keep forgetting that hubris is their greatest weakness.

And this one is epically hubristic.

The Republican plan to privatize Medicare wouldn’t touch his benefits, but Walter Dotson still doesn’t like the idea. He worries about the consequences long after he’s gone, for the grandson he is raising.

"I’d certainly hate to see him without the benefits that I’ve got," said Dotson, 72, steering a high school sophomore toward adulthood.

The loudest objections to the GOP Medicare plan are coming from seniors, who swung to Republicans in last year’s congressional elections, and many have been complaining at town-hall meetings with their representatives during the current congressional recess. Some experts say GOP policymakers may have overlooked a defining trait among older people: concern for the welfare of the next generations.

"I remember the days when we had poor farms and elderly people on welfare, before we had Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and I’m afraid it will lead right back to that situation," added Dotson, from the village of Cleveland in rural southwest Virginia.

Another nagging worry for seniors may have more to do with self-interest: If Congress can make such a major change to Medicare for future retirees, what’s to stop lawmakers from coming back and applying it to everyone currently on the program?


Nothing actually. They are wise to question this, especially since the two-tiered system they are proposing for the under 55s is likely to create a lot of friction when half the elderly are getting traditional single payer medicare and the other half are forced to shop online for the cheapest prices on electrocardiograms.

Hailed as bold and visionary by some in Washington, the proposal is stirring opposition around the country, polls show. No group has been more negative than seniors, although GOP lawmakers carefully exempted anyone now 55 or older.

[...]

It’s already changed the political dynamic, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard professor who tracks public opinion on health care. Last year, nearly three out of five people 60 and older voted Republican, reflecting concern over Medicare cuts to finance Obama’s health care overhaul. Now Republicans are on the defensive. "It’s a way of Democrats taking the health care issue back to their side," Blendon said.

Seniors’ skepticism cuts across party lines, a problem for Republicans.

An AP-GfK poll late last year, before House Republicans officially embraced Ryan’s approach, found 80 percent of seniors who are Democrats opposed Medicare privatization. Among Republicans age 65 and up, 71 percent were opposed. The poll asked about the idea generally, without linking it to Republicans.

Dotson, who owned a machine shop before he retired, says he’s a lifelong Democrat. But Sharon Bergeson, 68, a Republican, is also uncomfortable with privatization.

"What worries me is if something not as good as what I have was to come along for my children or grandchildren," said Bergeson, from Idaho Springs, a small town in the mountains west of Denver.

Medicare has its flaws, she said, but on the whole it has worked well for her. Bergeson said she’d have to know a lot more about how privatization would work for future generations, including how much they’d have to pay and how secure it would be. Her children and grandchildren deserve the same she has, or better.

"I don’t want to put the future generation into a situation changing their program when it’s something that’s working for me at this time," she explained.


You can certainly see why the powers that be fought so hard against single payer health care for everyone. Once people get it, they like it and don't want to give it up. Ryan and his fellows may think that human beings only care about themselves so all they have to do is exempt the current elderly and they'll be fine with it, but most people aren'tquite as selfish as your average Randian acolyte and have some care for their fellow man --- particularly their own offspring.

"I’ve never seen a group of seniors, once you tell them that this isn’t going to affect them personally, say it’s OK, we’re fine with that," said John Rother. "They kind of see themselves as guardians of the programs for their children."


John Boehner seems to realize that he made a mistake, but it won't help him now. All but four House Republicans voted for it.And Harry Reid's going to put the Republicans in the Senate on the hot seat and make them vote on this thing as well. As I said, when the GOP officially dropped this Ryan plan and then voted for it en masse, even I, cynic that I am, was taken aback.

From this moment on, the Democrats have the opportunity to reclaim their position as the party trusted by senior citizens. Over the next 15 years a gigantic number of them are going into the system --- and they vote. If the Republicans don't have them, they have nothing. (You know how badly they fare among younger people and racial and ethnic minorities.)

There should be a price to be paid for the kind of heartless abstraction we are seeing from the wealthy mandarins and starry-eyed Randians who are running things these days. The seniors are the ones who can make them pay it.


In this day and age the only ones who can beat the Republicans are themselves. Lucky for the Democrats they do it fairly frequently.


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