I was reading the comment thread of this Diary tonight where two progressives were going at it "hammer and tongs", over the suggestion that we might need to swallow on an increase to the eligibility age for Medicare.
It occurred to me that the conversation was getting heated when even Colorado is the Shiznit was forced to tell one of the participants to "Cool it". Heh ... I say that with enormous respect :)
Thinking around the issues leads me to conclude that CITS was correct, because it always helps if we remain civil; yet a large part of me wants to smack some Democratic heads together. This is a subject that matters, and we do need to fight like hell about it.
Broadly, the argument was posited that if the deal worked out is a really, really good one, then maybe swallowing on allowing some seniors to die would be okay.
That is not, of course, the way it was being put in the thread, yet I can't help thinking that would be the inevitable result. Leaving aside, for the moment, the idea that we should countenance the rollback of medical services for people aged sixty five and sixty six, I simply think that there are those among us who just don't get it.
In the current fiscalcliff/curbanddeficit negotiations, two things are clear. The top two percent of the income bracket are going to have to cut down to five cups of Starbucks per day, from their normal six, because that is about the amount of pain that will be caused by the very modest proposed increase to their taxes, and Social Security is off the table ... for now.
The rest of the deal is, as yet, unknown (whatever the current thinking of Ezra Klein - see above linked Diary), but it won't be pretty.
However good the deal is for the middle class, there is no acceptable deal that includes raising the eligibility age of Medicare, and here is why:
The reason Obamacare was so fiercely resisted by the GOP was NOT because it was bad, or expensive or even against their principles.
The fact is that Obamacare is broadly the Bob Dole plan, resurrected by Mitt Romney and written by the Heritage Foundation. It is a bonanza for insurance companies and many other private and public corporations. So in the nineties something similar was proposed by a Republican. In the late nineties Mrs Big Dog tried to tackle the thorny issue of prematurely dying citizens with something else similar, and later it really happened in Massachusetts.
It should be everything the GOP has wet dreams about. So why do they resist, even when the game is up?
Two reasons. First up is that they were intent on making Obama a one-term President. To do that they couldn't allow him any successes, especially successes that very publicly actually ... er ... help people. Even more especially in his "signature" policy ... it made them look weak and the President, despite cashing in some goodwill, looked remarkably strong.
Secondly, they absofuckinglutely couldn't allow anything to be done about healthcare. This has been the graveyard of politics for a generation. Indeed there has been no real change to the provision of healthcare in this country since Medicare was established. Everyone accepted that healthcare is broken, and everyone believed that it could not be fixed. Allow a President to fix healthcare and he gets two terms, and then gets to annoint his successor. Even the partial fix that he did manage was toxic to GOP chances last go around.
The other part of this dynamic is that even a modest improvement is "the thin end of the wedge". It will inevitably lead to Universal Healthcare, and another big government program will succeed. Universal Healthcare in this country cannot fail, as it will cost about half of what we are spending anyway, and sick people will be treated. The GOP simply cannot allow this to happen. You might be tempted to argue with my assessment of the inevitability of Universal Healthcare. Don't be because the only thing that can stop it is Republican government, and even then only for a while. Vermont and California are part way there, and the Affordable Care Act is helping them. Massachusetts, of course, almost has it anyway, we just need to break the link between the current MA system, and the private and rapacious companies running it.
For exactly the same reasons, no one in the Administration should be considering cuts to benefits or eligibility of Medicare. That is OUR thin end of the wedge. If we accept the principle that Medicare can be scaled back, the GOP will not stop until it is a Voucher Scheme, which can then be phased out.
I try, in moments of stress, to remember that we are Democrats, Liberals and Progressives, those labels not always meaning the same thing, and we are always up for a good discussion. So if the GOP wants to chat, then yes we should put Medicare on the table for discussion, and the starting point should be that we propose lowering the eligibility to age 50. Personally I would go all-in, and propose lowering it to sixteen and daring the states to refuse to cover children with Medic-Aid. The differing needs from region to region are best dealt with locally, so in states that can be trusted children's healthcare might be better locally met.
In states that can't be trusted ... I mean you, Florida, among others ... well I trust Moms to understand what their children need, and woe betide any Governor who gets between them and their kids. There is a knock-on bonus in this idea ... any Red State Governors refusing to provide comprehensive medical care for children is going to find his or her state changing color before too long. Yes, I can be crafty too!
So we put Medicare "on the table", because part of the negotiation is that the President wants to lower the eligibility age to fifty, and he is perfectly entitled to point out the wealth that exists in this country as a way to pay for it.
The Republicans do not respond to kindness. They are not an abused puppy that requires love and nurturing, consistent care from a tender owner. They are not the victims, they are the bullies.
They have, since about 1960, lied and cheated their way to wealth and power, or they are the tools of those who have. They do not negotiate, they demand. They do not bargain, they blackmail. They do not reach across the aisle in any manner other than one designed to grasp Democrats by the throat and squeeze the poor until the juice is gone and all that is left are the pips ... and they are squeaking loudly.
They see compromise as weakness, and they negotiate only to the point where they can detect compromise because then they have found our weakness.
Ever since the election they have been behaving like stupid whiny babies, because for the first time in forever they have met Democrats who are standing proud and walking tall. They cannot deal with it, they cannot negotiate in that climate so I say it is time to hit them hard, and hit them where it hurts the most ... in their wallets.
If they believe that we can do that, America wins ... and we might even get Medicare eligibility down a couple of years.
It sure as hell won't be going up!