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Tilting at Windmills

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August 6, 2009

THEY ALREADY HAVE THEIR CARE.... The CNN poll released yesterday found that 50% of Americans support President Obama's health care reform plan, while 45% are opposed. There was, however, a generational divide.

"Obama's plan is most popular among younger Americans and least popular among senior citizens," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "A majority of Americans over the age of 50 oppose Obama's plan; a majority of those under 50 support it."

I had the same reaction Josh Marshall did.

It's an interesting number since -- not to put too fine a point on it -- people over 50 are disproportionately people who already have guaranteed single-payer government health care. Why that would be is a whole other question in itself. But my sense is that this is less a matter of experiences with health care per se than it is a 'mapping' onto the health care debate of the generational divide that characterized the 2008 election.

However that may be, as Brian Beutler points out in this post from earlier this afternoon, this division is not lost on congressional Republicans. Rep. Boehner is looking to elderly voters as key allies in opposing health care reform, using the argument that funding reform for the whole population will lead to draconian cuts to Medicare.

Boehner is presumably not mentioning the longstanding Republican desire to privatize and eventually abolish Medicare. But then again, as I suggested, I'm not sure this is really about health care at all.

It's a strategy with multiple angles, isn't it? Republican leaders and their allies have been reduced to lying to seniors, telling them, among other things, that the federal government might try to kill them if Democrats successfully pass health care reform. After a concerted effort to scare the bejesus out of older Americans, those who enjoy and appreciate government-run health care are expressing their opposition to anything resembling government-run health care.

That these voters are listening to the same GOP leaders who support cutting Medicare and privatizing Social Security is a point that seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

But stepping back, it's also worth noting that Republicans are targeting older voters in part because other age groups are moving away from the GOP. On Election Day, Obama defeated McCain by huge margins among voters under the age of 40; tied McCain with voters 40 to 64; and lost badly among those 65 and older.

Maybe the GOP is looking for a sympathetic constituency, and Medicare-loving seniors offer some glimmer of hope?

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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It's in the classic American tradition of wanting to pull up the ladder after you've climbed it.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on August 6, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

We've got ours, now get off our lawn!

Posted by: TonyB on August 6, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing's better than listening to old people scream "Keep your government out of my Medicare!" If they manage to defeat health care reform, we should take them at their word and get government out of their Medicare too. Yank it. What will it be, Gramps? Food or meds?

Posted by: gex on August 6, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

No you can't have universal health care!

No you can't get married, you can't even BE gay!

No you can't smoke pot!

No you can't be president if you're black!

No you can't be a good judge if you're a woman!

No you can't have universal health care!!!

AND NO, you can't smoke pot!!!!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on August 6, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

What I don't get is the near-unanimous denial by the old coots that Medicare and SS are not government-run *socialism*. It's one thing to be confused and another to be stupid. I guess the young will have to drag the brain-washed old kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

I am 78 years old and I know from confusion, but I also know stupidity when I see and hear it.

Posted by: buddy66 on August 6, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

So this means that the people with the most experience with socialized medicine don't like it, right?

Posted by: binkless on August 6, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The seniors know that Medicare isn't going anywhere. At least they think they know this; in actuality, the failure to control costs in the health care system as a whole is probably the biggest threat Medicare faces.

But they think they have their health care, so they really don't care if anyone else does (including future Medicare recipients after they're gone).

Posted by: kth on August 6, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Another thing I always wonder about with right-wing full mooners is the way they can condone an awful system like ours that ranks 33rd in the world in infant mortality while screaming about how evil abortion is. Think of how many infants could be spared an early death if the US just had a first world health care system.

Posted by: Midwest Yahoo on August 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

...and lost badly among those 65 and older.

And that's the whole reason we at the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy, inc. want to euthanize them. With those old people out of the way, there's nothing to stop us from forcing everyone to have abortions and gay sex!

Mu haha hahha hahahah.....

Posted by: VLC Enforcement on August 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Older Americans oppose BHO's plan because they don't want to be euthanized.

Posted by: Al on August 6, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what they're thinking: "I worked and paid taxes for 45 years for that Medicare." I.e., it's not socialized if you already paid for it. You may not agree with that sentiment, but that's what they're thinking. The rest of us are freeloaders.

Posted by: Christopher on August 6, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Older Americans oppose BHO's plan because they don't want to be euthanized.

which is just as realistic as saying "Older Americans oppose BHO's plan because they don't want to be put on a spaceship to Mars." It's a fantasty, a lie, and a planted falsehood.

Posted by: g on August 6, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

So this means that the people with the most experience with socialized medicine don't like it, right?

It means that free from worry about the provision of health care they can vote their prejudices, their theories of macroeconomics, their memories of Dr. Kildare and Dr. Welby, their tribal allegiances, etc., etc.

It's a possibility few of us have -- to vote without material self-interest. It's like being able to vote for governor, but for governor of the third state over...

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 6, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this kind of bizarre? I mean, these people love their government-provided healthcare. And say what you will about "the classic American tradition of wanting to pull up the ladder after you've climbed it", I do think there's a strong generalized commitment to fairness in the American polity (not always acted upon, sometimes rationalized away, or even rationalized for selfish purposes, but it's there). "You like the healthcare that the government is providing for you. Don't you want to make sure that your children and grandchildren are just as well cared for? That if they get sick or hurt, they'll have the same access to treatment that you have?" is a very strong message. These people should be a good demographic for healthcare reform.

The claims about euthanasia are pretty bizarre as well. I mean, the idea here seems to be that if the government is paying for the healthcare of elderly people then it will try to kill them to cut costs. But, again, the government is already paying for the healthcare of elderly people. It's not just implausible, it doesn't even make sense.

Posted by: Anon on August 6, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Suddenly, euthanizing them doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

(I kid of course.)

Posted by: short fuse on August 6, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

All of which is why we would have been so much better off if the reformers in congress (are there any?) had simply created a single payer plan and labelled it "Medicare-For-All." All the socialized medicine arguments would have been a much tougher to make when they're out there denouncing Medicare.

Posted by: gypsy howell on August 6, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Coupled with...

When I was younger (during the senior's lifetimes), insurance was not like it is today. You could go to anyone and there were no recissions. Their life experience with what once was health insurance isn't what it is now...which is awful.

Posted by: MsJoanne on August 6, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

As a 60 year old "senior" I would have to say that I have been regularly appalled and horrified by the nastiness of the over-60 crowd, the aging hippies who became yuppies, and who routinely thought selfishness (I gotta do my thing, man!) was the point of life. To me, most of the great youth cult was the adoration of self self self, and now we see what it has brought us to, selfish grandparents who cannot see or do not care that their children and grandchildren are not doing well.

We have failed, and I don't know how you talk to us...I don't know how you can reach this mass of loutish indifference and greed.

Of course, I am not talking about individuals, but in the aggregate, we voted Bush into office twice, which boggles the mind.

I am so sorry.

Posted by: Carol on August 6, 2009 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

One correction - those over 50 DO NOT enjoy single-payer health care. One has to be 65 years old to start Medicare. However, count me as one older person (almost 62 AND an ex-hippie) who absolutely supports not only a public healthcare option, but I support single-payer for the entire country. In other words, Medicare for everyone. Considering we are the only industrialized country on the planet that doesn't have at least something similar is insane, in my book. The "cult" of individualism and capitalism in this country has run us off the rails many times and in many ways ever since the founding of this country. Time to grow up!

Posted by: winddancer on August 6, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

This would argue that OFA, PFAW, etc, should be sending people out to talk to seniors in particular.

Posted by: MichMan on August 6, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think you are reading too much into this. I don't think it is "I've got mine" or pulling up the ladder. This is simply the converse of the polling of privatizing Social Security, where the young were more willing and the older you got the more you opposed it. It also is related to young being un- or underinsured by choice.

Which is to say, those 50+ are more reliant on health care, are used to their current arrangements, and are more risk averse regarding their health care, just as they are more risk averse on Social Security. If you are 25, you think you're immortal so backing reform is easy. You aren't particularly invested in your current health care arrangements, and have no reason to fear change.

This demographic result was about as predictable as the sun rising in the east, and about as meaningful with regard to the broader reform debate.

Posted by: zeitgeist on August 6, 2009 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't those lazy young people go get some Medicare of their own and stop waiting for the government to do everything for them?

Posted by: Get Off My Lawn on August 6, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I do not understand this. I am in my 60th year and have excellent health care but I have MANY younger relatives who have no health care at all. Is there no concern for others among my generation?

Posted by: gelfling545 on August 6, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I we can not afford health care then we should stop all government funded health care, except for active duty enlisted personnel.

Posted by: Ned Pepper on August 6, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

The next round of ads in favor of reform need to feature a stable older couple with good Medicare coverage who are worried about a child/grandchild with inadequate coverage or a child/grandchild who might lose coverage in case of a job loss.

Posted by: Concerned about the future on August 6, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

there's nothing to stop us from forcing everyone to have abortions and gay sex!

You've got the order wrong, sweetheart. First it's gay sex, then abortions.

Oh, I know it's counterintuitive. But you libs love abortion so much you'll find a way.

Posted by: Myke K on August 6, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The next round of ads in favor of reform need to feature a stable older couple...

Soon, please. I'm about ready to bitchslap Louise. Took that dense cow 16 years to catch on, so she needs to wipe that smirk off her face toot sweet. Harry's just as hopeless but a little less annoying.

Posted by: shortstop on August 6, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Club for Growth founder Stephen Moore once said, “I can say this because I'm not an elected official: the most selfish group in America today is senior citizens. Their demands on Washington are: 'Give us more and more and more.' They have become the new welfare state, and given the size and political clout of this constituency, it's very dangerous. One of the biggest myths in politics today is this idea that grandparents care about their grandkids. What they really care about is that that Social Security check and those Medicare payments are made on a timely basis.” [The American Spectator, 11/1/02]

I'd say the real threat to the elderly comes from the libertarian/conservative side, not the liberal/progressive side. (And I think Stephen must have been cut out of grandpa's will...)

Posted by: VaLiberal on August 6, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

i suspect that the seniors fear medicare cuts will take away that pantload of money currently being spent in the last month of life, because their afraid they'll miss out on all the fun of being hooked up to a bunch of machines with tubes going in every available hole...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on August 6, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

I actually do think many seniors worry that expanding the system will eliminate the funding for Medicare. There was some talk about helping the financing for the public option by cutting back on Medicare.

A lot of seniors literally would die if their medications were cut off. For those it truly feels like a life or death situation. So when Republicans come along and fuel those fears, it's no wonder there's fear.

When you are weak and vulnerable after a life time of hard work, little things make you fearful.

What I don't understand are the 50 - 64 year olds not supporting a public option. At 60 health insurance rates jump so high that I'm surprised anyone can afford them.

Posted by: mlm on August 6, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest problem is the older people get, the more they do NOT want to change (look at GOP if you have any doubts).
Maybe the over 50 crowd think they do not need the medical insurance option but they need to wake up because their kids and grandkids do!!!
This is not about the baby boomers this is about EVERYONE.

Posted by: jc on August 6, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems should turn the argument around. Instead of listening to conservatives scare people about euthanization, they should start asking Republicans if their opposition to healthcare reform means they want to end
all government run healthcare.

If government can't run healthcare wouldn't it be their duty to move seniors into the private
sector ?

Get a few conservative pols or older protestors in front of a video camera and ask them if they support ending Medicare\Medicaid, the VA, or Bush's prescription drug benefit and watch them squirm.

If they say yes, blast the clip out to all the senior voters in their district. If the say no,
blast them as hypocrits.

The birther movement became a joke when Republican leaders were put on the spot and
wouldn't support it.

Posted by: Stephen on August 6, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The next round of ads in favor of reform need to feature a stable older couple..."

No, what's needed is for (a) Obama to take charge of the debate, and (b) to make the case forcefully that Medicare is going to get swamped in a few years unless health care costs are brought under control across the board. It's one of the clearest imperatives driving the need for reform, and it's also politically a useful argument to lead with. Obama needs to make this argument every single day until journalists' ears bleed. His failure to do so tells you everything you need to know why the reform effort is crashing.

Posted by: smintheus on August 6, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

These older folks are perfectly fine with other people paying *their* health care.. but when other people start paying for someone else's health care, oh man, that's where they draw the line.

Posted by: Andy on August 6, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

If they manage to defeat health care reform, we should take them at their word and get government out of their Medicare too. Yank it.

I agree with this. I have gotten furious watching these old louts on TV, who are obviously on Medicare, screaming down health care reform.

If the old coots stop reform, it's time to start cutting back on Medicare. This isn't The Greatest Generation, this is The Greediest Generation.

Posted by: Pug on August 6, 2009 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

The thought has occurred to me that at the next townhall that a Democrat holds, there should be a staffer outside at a desk prominently labeled as being antiHealth Care. They should be distributing forms to sign with SS no. and thumb prints, renouncing all government sponsored health care (including Medicare.) Anyone without a signed and authenticated form is ineligible to complain.

If someone argues that paying into Medicare counts as being part of sponsoring health care, reply that a CO who has renounced violence still has to pay taxes that go to the Pentagon.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on August 6, 2009 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

The 2008 Republican Party Platform (p. 41) contains this sentence, "And Medicare patients must be free to add their own funds, if they choose, to any government benefits, to be assured of unrationed care."
Doesn't that mean it is OK to ration Medicare to those who don't "choose" to pay extra??
Just Wondering....

Posted by: otto on August 6, 2009 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually quite simple. Older voters especailly over 65, are aware of what they get with medicare and how much it costs and they fear what would happen to THEIR care if medicare were expanded to all.

It would probably be better for everyone, but for THEM it would probably be worse (because not as much money would be available to spend on THEM).

Posted by: MNPundit\ on August 6, 2009 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

These are the same people who vote down every bond issue for schools because their children no longer go to school.

It's the "I got mine" mentality, an essential element of the American political culture.

Posted by: stevenz on August 6, 2009 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

May I point something out? We the People don't vote on health care reform. Legislators do.

So fuck the seniors. Of which I'm close to being one, BTW, so this isn't an agist thing.

But really. Fuck the seniors, and get this thing done.

Posted by: Lynn Dee on August 7, 2009 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Don't you want to make sure that your children and grandchildren are just as well cared for? That if they get sick or hurt, they'll have the same access to treatment that you have?

Ah, but that's not what they're worried about. Sure, they'd like to see good things happen to their children and grandchildren. But they would not like to see good things happen to poor and/or dark-complected people. That's why Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck are ranting about illegal immigrants and slavery reparations in the context of the health care initiative. Old people think The Black President is going to take their hard-earned money and give it to Those People, who are lazy and disrespectful and need to pull their damn pants up.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on August 7, 2009 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Seniors are being targetted also because the insurers do not want to lose the generous, corporate-welfare subsidies they are given for the Medicare Advantage plans. Reform will mean this subsidy is reduced or taken away.

Posted by: bob h on August 7, 2009 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

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