Who's Serious About Medicare?

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 10:18 AM PDT

Yuval Levin says he listened goggle-eyed to President Obama yesterday saying that "it’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing" about Medicare:

This has to make us wonder why the president has been sitting around doing nothing about all of this for two years (that is, when he hasn’t been making it worse) and keeping others from doing anything about it. It should also make us wonder what it is that he proposes to do now, since so far the only concrete ideas he has laid out involve doubling down on the current system.

The rest of the post is an entertaining temper tantrum, but one that seems to exist in some kind of alternate universe. Far from "doing nothing," here's how I remember the last couple of years of action on Medicare:

  1. During the 2008 campaign, it was a complete non-issue. It was barely mentioned, and neither candidate made any big promises about it.
  2. As part of healthcare reform, Obama cut Medicare expenses by $500 billion over the next decade, putting it on a substantially more solid financial footing. This was passed, as you might recall, on a party-line vote with zero Republican support.
  3. During the 2010 campaign, Republicans hammered the daylights out of every Democrat who voted to do this. They were destroying Medicare!
  4. Today, with the campaign over, suddenly Republicans like Levin are claiming that Obama is reckless for not proposing even bigger cuts to Medicare.

Maybe Levin remembers things differently. But as this CBPP chart shows, the healthcare reform act has done a lot to shore up Medicare's finances, and Obama has repeatedly (and to the fury of his liberal base) endorsed a deal that would do even more. However, Republicans are resolutely refusing to even discuss this if the deal involves even the slightest amount of increased revenue.

Conversely, the only proposal on the table from Republicans is Paul Ryan's transparently specious plan to voucherize Medicare, a plan that most of his fellow Republicans have treated about the same way that vampires treat a silver cross. So far, the only serious action has come from Democrats, and the only serious proposals going forward have also come from Democrats. At least, in the universe that most of us live in.

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