Republicans in the House have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare -- a move that would deplete the Medicare trust fund eight years early, kick 6.6 million young adults off their parents' health insurance, annually cost seniors $700 more on average for prescription drugs, and make it legal once again for insurance companies to charge women more than men, and to rescind policies when people get sick. This would provide a massive giveback to the rich, handing over nearly $400 billion in tax revenues to those who earn above $250,000 a year.
To further boost profits for insurance companies, the House passed a Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare, thereby subjecting seniors to what you might call "profit extractions" by the private market. In the first year alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost to seniors would more than double, to $12,500 -- and taxpayers would not save a dime, since private insurers would be pocketing the extra money. By 2050, as inflation took its toll, buying a policy as good as present-day Medicare would cost an 85-year-old more than $50,000. (So what kind of "voucher' is going to pay that kind of cost?) The Ryan plan would also eviscerate Medicaid by turning federal contributions to the program into lump-sum "block grants" that states can administer as they see fit. The trouble is that these grants, like Medicare vouchers, simply can't and won't keep pace with soaring health care costs. In the first decade alone, therefore, the plan would bilk states out of $810 billion and deny health care to 30 million disabled Americans, seniors, and children living beneath the poverty line,.
The last time a Republican presidential candidate touted an agenda to cut spending, lower taxes, boost defense and balance the budget was Ronald Reagan in 1980. Like Romney and Ryan, Reagan didn't have an actual plan for his spending cuts -- they were merely an accounting fantasy, openly joked about. In the end, as promised, Reagan's tax cuts went through, and the Pentagon's budget soared. But the compensatory spending cuts never materialized -- so Reagan wound up tripling the nation's debt.
If it didn't work for Reagan, says his former budget director, it would be foolish to assume Romney and Ryan can do better. "The Republican record on spending control is so abysmally bad," Stockman says, "that at this point they don't have a leg to stand on." Indeed, the last GOP administration turned $5 trillion in projected surplus into $5 trillion of new debt.
No one doubts Ryan's determination to slash the social safety net: Of the $5.3 trillion in cuts he has proposed, nearly two-thirds come from programs for the poor. But when it comes time to eviscerate the rest of the federal budget -- i.e. funding for things like drug enforcement and public schools -- David Stockman says Congress will "never cut those programs that deeply." In other words, the rich will get their tax cuts, the poor will be left destitute, and America will be driven ever deeper into debt.
That, at heart, is the twisted beauty of the plan being championed by Ryan and Romney: The higher Republicans manage to drive up the debt, the more ammunition and excuses they have in their fight to slash federal spending for the needy. And the more time they waste trumpeting the cause of "fiscal discipline," the more the nation's infrastructure will continue to crumble around them.
What you have just read is a synopsis of Tim Dickenson's excellent article in a recent issue of Rolling Stone.