There’s lots of talk in the Hot Air Media and the Hot Air Congress about “entitlement reform,” which is a code word for “cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as everything else that’s not defense related” (except veteran’s benefits, which are considered an “entitlement” and are on the table.)
The Evil Republicans are pushing hard to cut spending on these things. The Brave Democrats are promising to negotiate and find a compromise solution. “But where I live the game they play is compromise solution”–thank you Mick Jagger, that’s one of your best lines. Hey, the Dumbocrats are such great enablers! Barack O’bumbler! If he can’t find a way to lose it, nobody can!
The mainstream media seem to have unquestioningly accepted that the best place to prune the U.S. budget is in cutting benefits to the poor and middle class. This is a complete hoax and flim-flam, and anybody who swallows it should have their stomach pumped. And everybody that’s putting it out? Wash their mouths out with soap? A good dose of castor oil? Spanked and sent to bed without supper? There doesn’t seem to be any voting them out of office, or any chance to put them on trial for their lies, so we may as well get fanciful, eh? In another era, tar and feathers , beheading, or a dance at the end of a rope could have been their fate. Our leaders should thank their lucky stars that they were born in such genteel times, although, with the climate change storm gathering on the horizon, things could change in the blink of an overheated eye. But I digress…
Here’s what Jack Lew, who’s about to be our country’s Treasury Secretary, has to say about how Social Security is funded:
“Social Security benefits are entirely self-financing. They are paid for with payroll taxes collected from workers and their employers throughout their careers. These taxes are placed in a trust fund dedicated to paying benefits owed to current and future beneficiaries. … Even though Social Security began collecting less in taxes than it paid in benefits in 2010, the trust fund will continue to accrue interest and grow until 2025, and will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years.”
The only problem is that the government has borrowed most of the money that’s supposed to be in the benefit pool, and now they seem to be thinking, “Gee, if we just cut Social Security benefits, we won’t have to pay it back!” In other words, the Republicans, the party of Firm Morals and Family Values, want to welch on their debt to the aged and infirm (what a wonderful congregation of Christians!), and the only fight the Democrats are willing to make about it is how much and how fast to do this, not whether it’s OK to do it. When anybody less than the Federal Government takes money that’s dedicated to one purpose and spends it on something else, with no intent to pay it back, it’s called embezzlement, and there are lots of people in jail for it. Why should our government not be treated equally under the law?
The issue of cutting Medicare and Medicaid is a little more complex, because the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, and not because it’s the best, either, but because its costs are driven by the companies who make money from it. If we paid these hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors what they were worth, for doing what’s actually necessary, we could save a lot of money on health care, and probably be healthier in the bargain.
Just for openers, the Republicans who are now agitating to cut Medicare and Medicaid are the same folks who, when they passed the “Drug Benefit” package that was so widely heralded as one of the most magnanimous achievements of the Cheney administration, forbade the government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over their prices and closed the door to Americans buying prescription medications from Canada, where prices are lower because the Canadian health care system is, in spite of the Harper government’s attempts to wreck it, saner than ours when it comes to keeping costs down.And then there’s the famous scorpion antivenom sting. An Arizona hospital charged a woman $43K per vial for two doses of the life-saving product–which they imported from Mexico, where it’s an over-the-counter product that retails for….$100 a vial. After a huge public outcry, the hospital lowered its price….to $8,000 a vial. Sheesh, you can’t make that kind of money smuggling illegal drugs in from Mexico!
And I could talk about my own case, in which a hospital that generally handles Medicaid patients essentially warehoused me for 6 days at a cost to me, an uninsured person, of about $40,000, for something that, my current cardiologist tells me, should have been handled as an outpatient procedure for about a tenth of that cost. The point is, our health care establishment sees the insurance business/federal government, those who pay for most of our health care, as cash cows to be milked for all they’re worth, and the companies and the government, rather than be milked less by big businesses with lots of clout in Congress, find it easier to provide fewer services to fewer people.
So that’s what they’re talking about cutting, and why their approach, for all the populist rhetoric the Demopublicans sling around, is basically intended to preserve what big business feels it’s entitled to. Let’s turn now to what they’re not talking about.
Well, actually, they did talk about it some. One of the chief horrors of “the fiscal cliff” was supposed to be the fact that, oh sacrilegious horror of horrors, the defense budget would be cut. The U.S. defense budget, as agreed to by Democrats and Republicans alike during the Cheney administration, is one of the main reasons the government is having a hard time with its finances right now. Our elected representatives agreed to spend trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and pay for it manana, and manana has arrived. The two parties also agreed to eliminate the firewall between banking and speculation, AKA the Glass-Steagal Act, and to cut taxes on the corporations and individuals who make the most money. This has resulted in a financial crash that primarily affected the poor and the middle class, and an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes of this country to the upper class. And, again, for all the populist rhetoric, this has been a “bipartisan” effort from the get go.
Just goes to show, when you choose to vote for “the lesser of two evils,” you still end up with evil. Any questions?
music: Buffy Ste. Marie, “No, No Keshagesh“
Eliza Gilkyson: ”Milk and Honey”