Dick Armey: Just Let Medicare And Social Security Be Voluntary

Dick Armey makes me want to punch myself in the face every time I have to be subjected to his "Why can't I opt out of Medicare and Social Security?" lament. In his latest appearance on CNN's Parker/Spitzer yesterday, he did it again: ARMEY: I
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Dick Armey makes me want to punch myself in the face every time I have to be subjected to his "Why can't I opt out of Medicare and Social Security?" lament. In his latest appearance on CNN's Parker/Spitzer yesterday, he did it again:

ARMEY: I think they will do that. If it's going to happen, if will come out of the energy of the newly elected Republicans. But quite frankly there is so much work that has to be done, start with rolling back the new commitments that can't be fulfilled, which we did with the vote on Obamacare. But the fact of the matter is, on social security, just let it be voluntary on Medicare. I'll give you one, Eliot.

SPITZER: All right. OK.

ARMEY: A simple little thing.

SPITZER: It's not going to work, but that's --

ARMEY: Why can't the United States government allow Dick Armey, a 71-year-old fellow --

SPITZER: Right.

ARMEY: -- who makes a darn good living --

SPITZER: Right. ARMEY: -- opt out of Medicare without being punished? Just let Medicare be voluntary. I promise you there are a lot of wealthy old geezers and their wives in America --

PARKER: I don't think there are enough.

ARMEY: -- that would say to the federal government don't let us be a burden to you, we'll take care of our own health care. But this government is so devoted to the requirement that we be submitted to their dictatorship of our health care that they can't even let rich people out of Medicare. It's goofy.

Why can't Eliot Spitzer just pick up the ball and run with it, instead of giving an anemic response about how Mitt Romney understands mandates? It would have been simple enough to answer him with the truth, which is that Medicare and Social Security work because they are NOT optional?

Can you imagine what a mess Medicare would be if "rich old guys" like Dick Armey who makes a "darn good living" were optional? The adverse selection is bad enough now because it only covers the disabled and elderly, but allowing opt-outs would destroy it.

Which is Dick Armey's ultimate goal, of course. I keep thinking that if we actually had the same decibels on the left shouting out for Medicare for All as the "Obamacare" replacement, the country would at least start to become more informed about the underlying principles of health care risk pools and why rich old geezers can't "opt out" of it.

I would also say this: Dick Armey might just change his mind about opting out of Medicare if he were to be diagnosed with a chronic illness that would force him to spend all his ill-gotten gains on health care the way many people in this country do already. Just to reiterate some statistics as the House continues to focus on abortion and health care, personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high, and in 2009, 60% of them were because of medical bills.

I will give Dick Armey this much. At least he's honest about wanting the rich to be treated differently than everyone else. It's not much, but hey, when you're a corporate shill for Koch Industries it's always good to throw just enough truth into the spin to sound credible.

After Armey's ridiculous rant about those terrible "entitlements", he launches into a bunch of word salad about the fledgling Republican party. It's almost like he's confirming Michael Steele's comment from 2009 when he said Republicans weren't ready to govern yet. Oops, the Republican speech police will come after him for that comment, just like the NRCC did.

Full transcript follows.

SPITZER: It's impossible for a budget to please everyone, but the budget proposed today by President Obama seems not to be pleasing anyone. This should make our next guest very happy, but does it? Dick Armey helped spearhead the Tea Party movement. His battle cry is for government to get small.

Welcome, Dick. Great for you to come back and join us.

DICK ARMEY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you.

PARKER: Welcome back.

ARMEY: Thank you.

PARKER: A friend of the show, are you happy? Did this make you happy? Is this the budget you've been dreaming about?

ARMEY: What?

PARKER: This budget of President Obama's?

ARMEY: No. No, you know, as -- you know, I've observed for a long time the biggest problem with the president he just doesn't get it. And what's kind of distressing us and an awful lot of grassroots activists across the country and has for a long time is the haunting fear that frankly may be nobody in either party gets it.

PARKER: Well, apparently not because nobody will talk about the big cuts that have to be made.

ARMEY: Right.

PARKER: The spending cuts, entitlements, defense.

ARMEY: Right.

PARKER: All this. And so what does that say to you that President Obama didn't even mention cutting entitlements in this budget?

ARMEY: Well, first of all, I think -- let me take you back to the defining phrase of this grassroots revolution we've just seen bring to maturity and we in representation in the Congress of the United States. The defining phrase is constitutionally limited government.

Now basically what they're saying, what we hear in -- we have many government programs, some of which ought to be trimmed back and some of which ought not to be trimmed back and some that are social security, we won't even talk about them. What the grassroots activist is saying, we need you to examine the constitution of the United States, look at the legitimate history of the United States government at work with the private sector, discern what in fact has been productive for the overall community and what has not and then begin the process of returning the government to its excellent job of performance and its legitimate and necessary duties and a restraint to stay out of things that are none of its damned business.

SPITZER: Can I ask you a question though, because first of all, I just got a, you know, footnote here describing the Tea Party as mature. I'm not sure I'd go with that one, but that's a separate issue.

ARMEY: The average age --

SPITZER: I'm not talking about age. I'm talking about it measuring it another way.

Here's the thing that bothers me. You've been on the show a lot. It's always good fun. Time and time again, you said wait until we win, we're going to come out with a budget. We the Republican side that shows you we are serious about it. Put aside my personal views on this, now your side is only talking at most about $100 billion which is six percent of this year's deficit.

ARMEY: No. SPITZER: Doesn't go anywhere near -- let me finish -- doesn't go anywhere near the entitlements, doesn't go near defense. I'm going to be bipartisan in my criticism here, I'm not seeing from your side of the aisle the integrity that you said we would see if you guys won.

ARMEY: No. Actually what the Republicans in the House are now saying primarily in response to the requirement that they make some kind of peace with their new members, is $106 billion reduction in the continuing resolution for the last, let's see, what is it?

SPITZER: It's $100 billion for the fiscal year.

ARMEY: Seven months of this year.

SPITZER: That's six percent -- six percent of the deficit.

ARMEY: But that's just for the continuing resolution. You also have Jeb Hensarling working on serious budget reform. You also have many, many members of Congress making a point very clear when it comes to that moment when indeed you feel like it is imperative that we raise the debt limit. Be prepared to show how serious budget reforms for the future and reforms that include the elimination of not only major programs but even full agencies of the government.

SPITZER: Look, I have here what was in the continuing resolution that was passed by the House Budget Committee. Paul Ryan, everybody acknowledges, extraordinarily smart, he is your budget whiz. None of it goes to what is the serious dollars. It all comes out of the nondefense discretionary budget which is only 12 percent of our total budget. So what I'm saying here is when will your side, and I'm quoting our side to the fire as well, stand up on social security, Medicaid, Medicare and defense with serious change in the trajectory of the budget?

ARMEY: I think they will do that. If it's going to happen, if will come out of the energy of the newly elected Republicans. But quite frankly there is so much work that has to be done, start with rolling back the new commitments that can't be fulfilled, which we did with the vote on Obamacare. But the fact of the matter is, on social security, just let it be voluntary on Medicare. I'll give you one, Eliot.

SPITZER: All right. OK.

ARMEY: A simple little thing.

SPITZER: It's not going to work, but that's --

ARMEY: Why can't the United States government allow Dick Armey, a 71-year-old fellow --

SPITZER: Right.

ARMEY: -- who makes a darn good living --

SPITZER: Right. ARMEY: -- opt out of Medicare without being punished? Just let Medicare be voluntary. I promise you there are a lot of wealthy old geezers and their wives in America --

PARKER: I don't think there are enough.

ARMEY: -- that would say to the federal government don't let us be a burden to you, we'll take care of our own health care. But this government is so devoted to the requirement that we be submitted to their dictatorship of our health care that they can't even let rich people out of Medicare. It's goofy.

SPITZER: You know what? Mitt Romney is going to answer that question for you because he, the conservative Republican understood the necessity of the individual mandate and why health insurance care won't work without it. Mitt Romney got that. We have embraced a very conservative concept when it comes to that. But anyway --

PARKER: Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said today that they will be wading into the entitlements when the House Republicans put out their budget in the spring. But then Paul Ryan backed off of that a little bit and said, well, first we have to have a family conversation to decide where to go with these things.

I don't understand what they're talking about in the conversation because the Tea Party movement grew out of this understanding that we've got to have this.

ARMEY: I understand the Republican Party in the eyes of most grassroots activists including myself, fell into disrepute. I mean, they became careless, reckless and so forth and self-indulgent and shortsighted. They're frankly almost as bad as the Democrats. I mean, it was quite frightening because this movement is a movement that was born out of despair on both sides of the aisle. And to a large extent this movement was devoted to the proposition that if you wanted to ever once again get to constitutional limited government, you had to rehabilitate the Republican Party.

Now the rehabilitation of the Republican Party in office is just beginning and even people that within the context of the standards one might hold for the Republican Party in office, relative to their past performance of the last five, six, seven, eight years, Paul Ryan is a hero. Today, he's taking baby steps but we'll bring him along.

PARKER: All right. Coming up, Dick Armey. Thanks so much for joining us. I hate to interrupt but we have to go.

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