Barbara ComstockSoledad O'Brien does the most amazing thing: she counter's Romney apologist Barbara Comstock's ridiculous comments about Obama cutting Medicare.[1] The argument the Romney campaign is making is that Obama has cut $700 billion from Medicare and that it is very, very bad. Seniors, be afraid! Be very afraid! The problem is that Ryan's newest budget (that is much nicer to the old and poor than his earlier one) calls for the same $700 billion cut. But in Obama's budget, that money is mostly saved by cutting Medicare payments to hospitals for treating uninsured patients. Why? Because under Obamacare, there will be 60% fewer uninsured patients. Ryan, on the other hand, uses the money for extra military spending and tax cuts for the rich. (Funny how conservative deficit reduction always ends in more tax cuts and military spending and no actual deficit reduction.)

To be clear: Obama cuts funding but not services; Ryan cuts funding and services.

This is a great opportunity for Romney. He has claimed that he will role back Obama's Medicare cuts. But then he walks all over himself.
Jonathan Chait has quoted him in a New York Times article:

"The truth is we simply cannot [sic] simply continue to pretend like [sic] a Medicare on track to go bankrupt at some point is acceptable," Mr. Romney said at a news conference in Miami. "We must take action to make sure that we can save Medicare for coming generations."

This has not been, and I doubt it will become, the major promise of the campaign. Instead, Romney and company will continue to proffer what I have come to refer to as the "Fuck Me, Please!" argument. Barbara Comstock repeats it over and over in her interview, "No one under 55 will see their Medicare changed!"

In other words: if you are young you probably won't vote for us anyway, so fuck you!

This is remarkable for a party that spends so much of its time claiming to want to protect future generations. The argument always comes down to something like this: Social Security will only be able to pay 70% of promised benefits in 40 years; we need to cut current benefits to 70%! In the case of the Ryan budget, it is this: Medicare is unsustainable in the future; we need to destroy it today!

This really isn't an exaggeration. Ryan's plan is to depend upon his religious belief that if we let markets work, all problems are solved. His idea is to give seniors vouchers to buy healthcare from private insurers. Then, healthcare costs will go down. How does he know the costs will go down? Capitalism! There are many problems with this, but the most direct refutation is Medicare Advantage. This is part of Medicare where seniors can get their care in the private sector. The idea was (1) private insurance; (2) capitalism; (3) magic! Instead, it was (1) private insurance; (2) corporate profits; (3) disaster! And by "Disaster!" I mean that it costs about 20% more for the same care.

It makes me very angry to hear people talk about how they aren't going to touch current recipients of Medicare and Social Security. If this statement has to be made, it must be that current recipients like these programs. Luckily, just as when Bush wanted to privatize Social Security, most seniors are more empathic than the conservative establishment. They think that I shouldn't be fucked just because I happened to have been born late.

Update (Right Away)

Check out this screen shot of Fox News on Monday. The title read, "Saving Medicare. Ryan Plan: 55 & Older Won't See Changes." If I don't watch Fox News for a while, I forget just how completely they are the media arm of the Republican Party. MSNBC, for all of it problems would never do something like this:

Fox News - 55 and Older Won't See Changes

Update (14 August 2012 6:49 pm)

Sarah Kliff has a nice, short article on WonkBlog about where exactly the $700 ($716 actually) billion gets cut. It is roughly a third each of hospital reimbursement, Medicare Advantage, and other things. She writes:

The rest of the Affordable Care Actís Medicare cuts are a lot smaller. Reductions to Medicareís Disproportionate Share Payments ó extra funds doled out the hospitals that see more uninsured patients ó account for 5 percent in savings. Lower payments to home health providers make up another 8.8 percent. About a dozen cuts of this magnitude make up the [other category].

Itís worth noting that thereís one area these cuts donít touch: Medicare benefits. The Affordable Care Act rolls back payment rates for hospitals and insurers. It does not, however, change the basket of benefits that patients have access to. And, as Ezra pointed out earlier today, the Ryan budget would keep these cuts in place.



[1] This is really good. Barbara Comstock even brings up Death Panels: