Austerity is perhaps the single worst idea to come from the political elite over the past half decade, and that's saying a lot. It hurts people, "punishes" them as George Logothetis points out above. As he also says, it breeds extremism (the Tea Party here, Golden Dawn in Greece).
We need more smart, savvy businessmen like Logothetis out there among our elite. Ones who realize we need "capitalism with a conscience," that "the more one has, the higher the duty one has to give back," and perhaps most importantly, that "you're only as rich as the person next to you is poor."
Imagine! When children have higher co-pays, they tend to not get adequate treatment for their asthma.
Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review has been doing great work on untangling the intentions of the Very Serious People toward our social safety net. This time, she deciphers Obama's State of the Union message for his intentions toward Medicare cuts -- the so-called "modest reforms" he mentioned:
The president’s State of the Union message may have sort of resolved the question: “Will he or won’t he touch Medicare? The answer: he probably will, a conclusion based on his cryptically grand rhetoric. The president called for those who care deeply about Medicare to “embrace the need for modest reforms—otherwise our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children.” Vague enough!
Next came some “specifics.” Obama said he was prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of healthcare savings by the beginning of the next decade as those proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission. The Simpson and Bowles reference probably flew over many heads. Three years ago, the president appointed the commission to recommend steps for reducing the deficit. It was chaired by the former Wyoming senator, Alan Simpson, and the former Clinton chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, and composed of Democrats and Republicans. They could not agree on final recommendations, but issued a report anyway. It’s time to dust it off.
The Simpson-Bowles plan called for a global budget for all federal government healthcare spending, and for limiting healthcare outlays to the rate of GDP growth plus one percent. And it laid out several changes to Medicare, with price tags for each adding up to billions.
What’s significant is that the proposals shift some of the cost of care from the federal government to seniors, along the lines of the bill introduced by Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, which we parsed last week. Like Corker’s bill, Simpson-Bowles would require seniors to pay one $550 deductible instead of separate deductibles for various Medicare services. And like Corker, seniors would have to pay $7,500 of their expenses out-of-pocket.
As we wrote last week, that would be tough for millions of beneficiaries, considering that half of them have incomes of $24,000 or less.
Such a requirement for seniors would be a death sentence for many.
President Obama won on Tuesday with a coalition of the future. Not only did he have the support of younger voters, Asians, African Americans, women, Latinos, moderates, union members and city dwellers and suburbanites alike, he got the support of those who think we should be expanding, not contracting our social compact.
So let's begin with this so-called "Grand" Bargain, and when I say "begin," take that as "keep the government's hands off of our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," if you get my drift. There is no crisis. Let's try it again together: there is no crisis. No fiscal cliff or whatever the buzzwords are in the Beltway today.
The rather slight budgetary issues can be fixed in the blink of an eye, by addressing real problems such as our lack of revenue and propensity for wasting money on things to go BOOM that the military doesn't even want.
Please sign the petition created by my friends I often work with at Social Security Works and make your voices heard on this issue. And you can go here to view the ad just placed in The Washington Post making the same point.