Dave Weigel may yet get his wish for another summer of confrontational public indignation, as the Washington Post reports that ‘fiscal austerity’ has become last week’s buzzword:
Anxiety is rising among some Republicans over the party’s embrace of a plan to overhaul Medicare, with GOP lawmakers already starting to face tough questions on the issue at town hall meetings back in their districts.
House leaders have scheduled a Tuesday conference call in which members are expected in part to discuss strategies for defending the vote they took this month on a budget that would transform the popular entitlement program as part of a plan to cut trillions in federal spending.
Democrats, eager to win back the seniors and independents who abandoned the party in last year’s midterm elections, have declared the vote a “moment of truth” and this week launched a media campaign accusing GOP House members of dismantling Medicare and endangering retirees.
The assault has taken some Republicans by surprise, prompting concerns that the party is ceding ground in a policy debate that GOP strategists already viewed as perilous…
A Washington Post/ABC News poll published this week found that two-thirds of Americans want Medicare to remain as is. That includes 62 percent of independents and nearly eight in 10 people 65 and older — making for an uphill climb for House Republicans trying to reassure constituents.
The GOP’s challenge was evident Friday to Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-N.H.), who fielded questions at a senior center in his district and said later that Democrats “have beaten the world record for getting misinformation out fast.”
“The first thing [the seniors] asked me is whether or not I’m planning to vote to end Medicare completely,” said Bass, elected last year in a swing district that he had previously represented for 12 years. Bass said the encounter has convinced him he needs to compile a “fact sheet” to distribute to the senior centers in his district that would include the assurance that nobody 55 or older would be affected by the changes.
Earlier in the week, Bass faced similar questions at a town hall. He defended the GOP plan on Medicare, according to a video of the event, but at one point sought to reassure the room that it was not a done deal and still would be debated.
“Remember that budgets are not law,” he said.
Democrats pushing back at Republican messaging? Yeah, I can see how it would.
ETA: Note too how the Republican congressman, while denying he’s trying to dismantle Medicare, is assuring his local seniors that the changes won’t affect them, which makes his denials obviously fishy.
The Republicans still haven’t caught on that FYIGM is not popular with the general public, only with the rumpy rump of the right wing.
@Gregory: Heh, beat me to it.
Also, I like that the GOP’s attempts to defend themselves involve lots of hedging and fine details about over 55 vs. under 55. Compare and contrast with “The Republicans voted to gut Medicare”.
I flat-out don’t believe this. I expect they ask whether Medicare will go away, under Republican plans, and the most accurate answer is Yes. “Completely” is just a weasel word.
Speaking of fact sheets. Someone needs to work up a bullet point version of this and pass it out at these townhall meetings…
Hopefully the Republican strategy re: Medicare rests solely on pointing out to oldsters that it’s only the 55+ crowd who will be unaffected by this. Speaking (anecdotally) as someone who is 39 and has parents in their early-70s/late-60s, the calculation isn’t so simple as “fuck those young people” – people that age will be asking themselves what kind of country they want to leave to their kids. I hope…
Add senior centers to my last comment…
Most Dems support Medicare. Repubs support Medican’t. There’s a phrase that should enter the political lexicon.
I was hoping this would be a bridge too far.
The beauty of the Republican party running towards the Bircher types, instead of away from them, is a lot of short term pain; but this is the kind of long term diminishment it will lead to. Die hards die off; people who have no clue about the culture wars and the divide discussed in Nixonland get older and vote more.
They have entirely different hot buttons, and I haven’t seen a Republican yet who understands them.
Will there be signs of Republicans in witch doctor outfits? As many quotes of Jefferson regarding the relationship between elite-donated hemoglobin and tree growth?
So in other words we’ve taken our three steps to the right and now it’s time for the one step to the left – or, more accurately, an attempted step to the right that doesn’t happen. We get those once every second or third year, it seems.
I don’t know about the rest of my age group, but I’m 54 and have no retirement benefits to look forward to except for SS and Medicare.
I hope Paul Ryan is ready to have me come die on his doorstep.
And he added “Didn’t you see how we bailed like rats from the Bismark when the Democrats started that switch to “present” trick? Even *we* think this is crap put in to please our Koch masters.”
You are very wise, Donut, as that’s exactly what they plan to do:
But of course, that’s exactly what they tried to do with Bush’s plan to privatize social security in 2005 (exempt the 55 and older crowd), and that failed miserably, too.
I guess the republicans don’t like it when their tactics are used against them.
@dmsilev: Ah ha ha ha! Remember the old saw, Republicans? “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
The Republicans’ assurance that people 55+ will be unaffected by this is complete sucker bait. Once they’ve set the under 55 set against the over 55 set they’ll come back for the over 55’s. Divide and conquer: it’s the GOP’s favorite tactic.
If they implement for only the under-55s, the latter will make certain it is implemented for the over-55s shortly thereafter.
Seniors must know that if Medicare is eliminated for everyone under 55 in 2011, by 2013 it will be gone for EVERYONE. BTW – I think that “Republicans voted for ‘Vouchercare’ over Medicare” is a useful club to hit them over the head with for the next 18 months.
RyanCare = Death Panels
On top of that, people under 55 but around our age have been paying into Medicare for something close to 20 years. At least Reagan and Greenspan had the sense to arrange it so their theft from the middle class in the Social Security deal wasn’t obvious right away. The current Republican plan is a massive and obvious wealth transfer from the middle class to the rich.
“Remember the budgets are not law and this is not meant to be a factual statement”.
@Rihilism: I don’t think that will fit on a bumper sticker.
I was in the middle of cooking breakfast when I punched in my last post – but couldn’t agree more. As you said, people in their 30s and 40s and early 50s have been paying into the Unemployment, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid insurance systems for decades now. I’m not giving that up easily, not without a fight. Fuck Dave Weigel. I’m fucking pissed about this shit. The reason why I don’t show up to town halls worked up in an angry rage-filled hate-ball is because I’ve got a wife, two little kids, job. And I live in Jan Schakowski’s district. :) But I’m paying attention. And anyone with parents in their 60s, 70s and beyond knows how tough the health issues get and the costs associated. Even though quality of life remains high for my folks, for example, it does take significant time and effort for that to hold true. People my age are a little more inclined to vote GOP, for some godforsaken reason, but they are not unaware of this stuff. It’s a losing strategy for the GOP to hang onto this Medicare plan. Let’s encourage them to keep doing so.
That’s a really important point we need to keep repeating: If the many years of contributions we’ve been making to Medicare and SS are not paid out as Medicare and SS benefits, then they’ve been stolen from us.
@Donut: Well, we’d hope.
But it sure as hell didn’t stop the greedy geezers from showing up at clownhalls last year to demand that their children and grandchildren continue to be subject to medical bankruptcy.
As for bumperstickers, sorry, but none of them top this:
FDR, 1932: The New Deal
GOP, 2012: The Raw Deal
You have only only choice to make November 2012, Grammie:
Medicare (D) ____
Kochkare (R) (R) ____
Which will it be?
You know, lots of couples have age differences. If you’re, say, a 55 year old man married to a 53 year old woman, I don’t think the message “you’re fine, but your wife is fucked” is really going to resonate in the way that Republicans imagine it will.
HA HA HA HA! Man, this is funny. All the bullshit that made it so easy for them to enrage seniors about the ACA will now make it almost impossible for them to defend the Ryan plan.
People don’t listen and they don’t think. The Republicans attacked Medicare in an obvious way. For anyone who cares about Medicare, that is the ONLY important fact. Details are irrelevant. Once they’ve changed their minds they’re not going to unchange them. That’s why explaining what the ACA did was useless. Not only was it a hard message to get out, no one was listening anyway. In the general mass of humanity and conservative voters in particular, truthiness ALWAYS wins.
And one extra touch makes it even sweeter. The ‘over 55 exempted’ bit won’t work. The seniors who are the GOP’s best voters are too damn paranoid. The GOP worked hard to make them paranoid, and were wildly successful. They know damned well that it’s ‘cut Medicare for the under 55s now and cut the rest of it later’. No attack on Medicare is acceptable to them, because they’re terrified it’s a slippery slope. Which in this case it is.
The GOP’s been going after Medicare since the 80s, but they’ve been subtle enough about it their core voting block didn’t catch on. They finally fumbled the ball and were obvious about it and everyone knows what they’re doing.
My only regret is that because voters act on truthiness, they won’t actually drive away many seniors. But it oughta give GOP voter enthusiasm a big punch in the gut come 2012, and voter enthusiasm lost us 2010.
To quote Brad DeLong:
That’s exactly right. All they hear is “blah blah blah CUT MEDICARE blah blah blah.” Like that cartoon Far Side with the pet only recognizing his name.
From working with seniors as my job, they think the ACA cut real Medicare instead of Medicare Advantage and don’t even know about the closing of the coverage gap in Part D. As soon as they hear the word MEDICARE, they start getting nervous.
Thank goodness the republicans are too arrogant to realize they completely blew it.
Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel)
@loretta: Right. “NOT cut medicare” will not register no matter how much hand waving and back pedaling Rs try to do. All folks hear are those last two words.
I am always amused by the utter contempt for the Constitution typical of self proclaimed “constitutional conservatives.”
“Remember that budgets are not law,” – Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-N.H.)
“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law;” US Constitution.
In other words the Constitution says “budgets are law.”
Do any Republicans ever actually read the Constitution ?
@loretta: I think they counted on people paying less attention than they actually do. You’re right: as soon as they hear the word MEDICARE they take notice. And what they heard last summer was that the dastardly Obama, who hates old people, especially old WHITE people, and who may have even murdered his own white grandma, was going to get rid of Medicare and send them all to death panels if they didn’t get busy with helping the Republicans in their attempts to block health care reform. What a slap in the face it must have been to see their great protectors turn around just 9 months later and vote in favor of legislation with the expressed intent to do away with Medicare. Not to mention the cognitive dissonance involved with the realization that if what the Republicans had convinced them last summer was true – that ObamaCare was going to cut them off from Medicare – that there wouldn’t really be any need to pass the Ryan plan, now would there? Though I doubt most of them make it that far in their thinking.
I always assume humanity in general doesn’t think at all. They feel. The Republicans finally made the seniors FEEL that they’re attacking Medicare. They’ve been attacking Medicare for decades, but the seniors didn’t FEEL that it was true. Now they do, and a can of whupass is going to be opened.
The only sane thing for the GOP to do is shut up and hope they forget. Then the seniors FEELING that the GOP are better people can reassert. But one feeling can chip away at another, and this was a blow to the very pillar of the GOP’s success – old people who vote in high numbers.
@Uloborus: Unfortunately, I think your theory is probably the correct one, though there may be a few sentients out there who make decisions in the way I described. A shrinking minority.
I’m heavily influenced by my psych classes and unfortunately close experiences in the field. Psych research says that humans are animals capable of logic, but using logic is the exception, not the default. We’re wired to make decisions by emotion. Logic can overpower emotions, but that’s not how it usually works.
Beautiful. I’ll be using that one over and over at our next gathering with the family Republicans.
@Uloborus: This is why I use the term “brain-stem voters” to describe the teabaggers.
Well, I continue to call them teabaggers, too.
Lotta good posts here. I’d like to add one other point.
Medicare part D is ridiculous. No negotiating with big Pharma on drug prices. Donut hole.
I just turned 65. I’m lucky to be a university retiree with the ability to continue with Cigna as my secondary, and Cigna’s drug plan is quite decent, so I didn’t have to go with Part D.
Part D needs drastic overhaul. Fortunately, Obama has talked about reducing Medicare costs by such things as negotiating drug prices. Hopefully they’ll eliminate the donut hole as well.
I sure hope y’all are right about the Repubs shooting themselves in the foot (and other body parts) with their plans for Medicare.
@The Dangerman: I still prefer
“Abandoned to the tender mercies of the private insurers”
But vouchercare IS shorter/
@Wolfdaughter: You missed the news. Donut hole was fixed by Obamacare.
ANOTHER thing that democratic messaging has not gotten out to the public. The first? Obama is the biggest tax cutter – ever. But ask any ‘low information voter’ what Obama has done and they will say he has raised their taxes.
What did they think would happen when they proposed changes to medicare? One of the cleverest things they did last election was to attack Democrats for taking funds away from medicare as part of health reform. I honestly thought Republicans were smarter than this. . . at least as far as demagoguing was concerned.
@Uloborus: “The GOP’s been going after Medicare since the 80s, ”
Actually since before it was even passed. Ronald Reagan has ads against it from 1963.
Or did you mean the 1880’s?
REPORT: The 46 Year-Long Republican War On Medicare
I don’t think Democrats are ready for this at all. The GOP strategy is obvious: “We aren’t ending Medicare. We’re saving it! Obamacare ends Medicare!”
They’ll send folks out to Democratic townhalls for the next year and a half yelling just like they did last time, except this time it’ll be about the IPAB cost-control boards in Obamacare and the GDP+1% inflation target in Medicare. They’ll demand that nominees commit one way or another to repealing IPABs or other aspects of Obamacare. They’ll write Op-Eds and go on Sunday shows saying how Ryan’s plan is similar to Obamacare except that it (1) saves more money by growing at the rate of GDP instead of GDP+1 and (2) saves money by giving seniors choices instead of having the government tell them what care they can get.
It’s all complete nonsense, of course, but it’ll largely work because Democrats haven’t even tried to make the argument that private insurance is inevitably more expensive than single payer insurance; that this is simply a place where the free market fails. Period. There are plenty of examples (Medicare Advantage, Switzerland, etc) of similar ideas providing less care for the same amount of money (or more).
The up-is-down strategy worked brilliantly in 2010. Republicans were elected on the common wisdom that TARP lost money, that the Stimulus cost jobs, and that Obamacare raises the deficit. Until someone makes an effective argument that the underlying premises are simply false, Democrats will continue to struggle.
Tax cuts reduce revenue. Public health insurance is cheap and efficient. Government spending creates jobs. After two decades of nationwide belt-tightening, there is very little waste in government spending. Immigration creates jobs and grows the economy. So does free trade. I’d bet that a poll of likely voters would find majorities thinking all of these empirically true statements are wrong.
I think that the compliant media, acting as stenographers/fluffers/heh-indeeders to all this reactionary class war horseshit has actually done the left a solid on this issue. The right, convinced by the echo chamber that they had carte blanche to go all Hobbes on our Aynuses, has overreached on the very same issue that pulled Dubya up short in his second term and halted his momentum for good. The actual voters don’t love them some privatisation of the actual safety net that keeps them from the nasty, brutish, and short.
Actually, this isn’t good news for sane people. Sane people know that Medicare can’t remain as it is. We need some significant changes: increased taxes to begin with, though I doubt that will poll quite as well as keeping Medicare as it is. Apart from revenue changes we need to change the fee for service structure of Medicare and that won’t be easy, since the biggest change we need is in the quality of the electorate — in intelligence and maturity — and I don’t see that happening.