Republicans want to pay for an assistance program for workers whose jobs are lost through TPP by... taking the money out of Medicare! Nice! Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times explains:
Medicare means many things to many people. To seniors, it's a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it's most needed.
To Congress, it's beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided.
That's the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government's Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.
I'd characterize this as money stolen from Medicare.
- Max Richtman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
The plan on Capitol Hill is to move the Trade Assistance Program expansion in tandem with fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, possibly as early as this week. We explained earlier the dangers of the fast-track approval of this immense and largely secret trade deal. But the linkage with the assistance program adds a new layer of political connivance: Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in Medicare, and the Obama White House, which should be howling in protest, has remained silent.
Medicare advocates have taken up the slack by raising the alarm. "To take this cut and apply it to something completely unrelated sets a terrible precedent," Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told me.
The Medicare raid was so stealthy that critics in Congress, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are just now gearing up to oppose it. "It was sort of buried" in the bill, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the caucus co-chair, told me Monday. The caucus expects to circulate a letter opposing the arrangement as soon as later this week. Ellison, an opponent of granting fast-track authority on the TPP, says the Medicare cut amounts to piling the costs of trade liberalization onto its victims.
"There will be fabulous wealth generated by the Trans-Pacific Partnership," he says. "The people who are hurt shouldn't have to pay for it with their jobs and then have inadequate Medicare when they get older."