Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 24, 2009

MICHAEL STEELE, COMEDIAN.... A.L. wrote nine words this morning that literally made me laugh: "GOP now promising to protect seniors' Medicare from Dems."

As silly as that sounds, this is the point we've reached. In the 1960s, Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare. In the 1990s, Republicans shut down the federal government because a Democratic president wouldn't tolerate proposed GOP cuts to Medicare. In 2008, the Republican presidential ticket ran on a platform of cutting Medicare.

And in 2009, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has the chutzpah to write a Washington Post op-ed, accusing Democrats of trying to undermine Medicare.

Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. [...]

[Obama] and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment. [...]

[W]e need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient.

Steele says Medicare faces long-term shortfalls, but he opposes efforts to address them. He condemns boards that could deny Medicare financing for some treatments, but fails to note that such boards already exist and have for years.

If one sifts through the nonsense, looking for something substantive, what we're left with is Steele's uninformed opposition to the creation of an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC). The idea is to have appointed IMAC members -- physicians and medical experts, appointed by the White House and confirmed by the Senate -- who would have some added authority to help control what Medicare pays doctors and hospitals. The panel would probably help lower costs more effectively than Congress, which isn't especially good at these technical, medicinal, and scientific questions.

The idea was originally proposed by conservatives, embraced by Democrats, and would serve as part of a larger effort to save money and take political considerations out of the process.

And now Michael Steele wants seniors to think big bad Democrats are trying to undermine Medicare.

What an embarrassment.

Update: Steele personally endorsed the prospect of Medicare cuts during his unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.

Second Update: Media Matters fact-checks Steele's piece, point by point.

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Look, I know the so-called "op-ed" tends to be about as fact-free as a late night beer session, but wouldn't one think that the editors of the Wa-Po would at least try to keep the editorial on this planet.

Posted by: IntelVet on August 24, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't matter - the lie will be repeated and repeated (by Faux et al) until the polls show that 40% of people believe Democrats are tring to cut medicare- you heard it here first. Unless by some miracle someone from the democratic party other than Barney Frank and Howard Dean develop balls - the reform is going nowhere.

Posted by: johnR on August 24, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Instant gratification

The Healthcare Bill of Rights...
Brilliant PR move.
What happened yesterday doesn't matter.
You've got to spark TODAY'S neurons...

The puggers are really rocking the house!
They got the Gang of Six controlling the message in Wachington...
They've got their lies spreading like truthful wildfires...

They really know how to do politics.
FDR was willing to cheat to win.
LBJ was willing to twist an arm to snapping.
What are our sissies up to?
Vacationing in Martha's Vineyard?


Posted by: koreyel on August 24, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it's all lies. What else are they going to do, actually discuss important policies rationally? Puleeze!

"Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient."

Please keep track of whenever a wingnut or republican public servant repeats this. It will come in handy when a womans right to choose comes back to the front burner. They know not whay they say.

Posted by: Wacky Librul on August 24, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Greatest generation" Wasn't that term coined (by Tom Brokaw) to describe the World War II generation? They are exiting the stage these days. It is we spoiled baby boomers who are the future elderly to whom Mr. Steele is pandering. I would hardly call us the "Greatest generation", though, based on our parents' high expectations for us, "Greatest disappointment" might fit!

Posted by: Observer on August 24, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

In the 1960s, Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare. In the 1990s, Republicans shut down the federal government because a Democratic president wouldn't tolerate proposed GOP cuts to Medicare. In 2008, the Republican presidential ticket ran on a platform of cutting Medicare.

And it would be really cool if this was reported by the corporate-controlled media.

Isn't the the vice president supposed to be the president's attack dog? The White House needs to write a speech that blasts the Republicans for having no credibility on health care because they are the party that has opposed Medicare from the beginning. And then should send Biden out to read it.

Oh, and they need to equip him with a shock collar in case he starts to go off script.


Posted by: SteveT on August 24, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

How did we get to a point where the Republicans are claiming to be the defenders of Medicare and being believed by a portion of the population?

Can someone please ask Barack Obama this question?

Massive messaging failure on the part of the White House.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on August 24, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Memorandum
TO: whatever buddhist sect that can best clarify the way michael steele is PURE KARMA for the Repugnant Party


I am ready to join up.

Posted by: neill on August 24, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

The embarrassment is that we've descended from a two-party system to a system of one party and one obstructionist peanut gallery. The only "contributions" the Republicans make to policy debates are glib talking points and potshots, constantly revised or substituted, for short-term, tactical political advantage. And aside from the occasional Joe Klein, no one in the mainstream media seems able or willing to call out the offenders.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on August 24, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded

What? No more funding for stupid b.s. that doesn't work?

I'm fer that!

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on August 24, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with johnR's points made above. The Republicans, their fellow-traveling extremists, and their witless enablers in the news media are now controlling and dominating the narrative in this debate. Sure Michael Steele's statements are ridiculous, and the Republican "seniors health 'bill of rights'" is hypocritical and absurd, but so what? Too few people see it for what it is, and the media is treating it as it is reasonable and credible. The Democrats allowed the Republican to terrorize people, didn't push back hard enough, and now they are in the position of having to show "courage", i.e., risk losing elections, in order to get meaningful reform passed, and that ain't gonna happen because courage--along with bipartisanship--are long gone from Washington.

Posted by: Jimbo on August 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Who will pay for Steele's brain implant?

Posted by: BroD on August 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Fox News has had a non-stop "Medicare is bad and doesn't work - this is proof that government health reform is bad" meme going lately. I wonder how they'll work this in.

Posted by: Speed on August 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Speed, cognitive dissonance is not an obstacle as long as the narrative supports your worldview. Tin foil hats can untwist the narrative for them.

You know, we operate under the premise that these people are stupid, but they aren't. They know exactly what the spin is and they buy into it to get their way. It's all about how the ends justify the means and until our society addresses the true lack of morals and values attached to this policy, we will never get anywhere.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on August 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

By policy in my above comment, I mean the policy of anything goes to get your way.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on August 24, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele - Socialist

Posted by: Sean Scallon on August 24, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

What I see when I sort through the word salad is the RNC trying to expand beyond their boundaries as a small regional party. If they can peel off senior citizens from the Democrats, and add them to their voting base of southern white trash, then the Republicans will be back in the game. I don't think Democrats should take Steele lightly, here.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on August 24, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

...Steele's uninformed opposition to the creation of an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC) No Republican would be uninformed about the IMAC. It is an important part of Obama's plan to lower health care costs. See Peter Orszag.

Steele wants to block anything that can improve Medicare and health care in general, which means better service for lower costs, since that outcome means Dems win and Republicans lose.

Posted by: Bob M on August 24, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

How did we get to a point where the Republicans are claiming to be the defenders of Medicare and being believed by a portion of the population?

Good marketing and sheer repetition. After all, a portion of the population believes Velveeta™ is actually cheese.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 24, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

As others above have pointed out, the GOP strategy will work. Never mind that it makes no sense, the center of the American electorate is as big and soft as their waistlines, and it is basically dumb and gullible. They have no understanding of policy and basically vote on emotion.

Unless Obama and the Dems find a way to fight the GOP's razzle-dazzle strategy, they are sunk.

Posted by: g. powell on August 24, 2009 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Next up: Steele decries the disgusting rhetoric coming from prominent Democrats Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and leading Democratic Atheist Pat Robertson.

Stay tuned.

Posted by: DH Walker on August 24, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing how if you're a senior citizen, "[W]e need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors." but if you're a woman, then the government somehow belongs between you and your doctor.
So, to Republicans, I need to be protected from my medical choices but once I turn 65, I am the *only* person who can make them. My ovaries going kaput makes me smarter? I didn't know that!

Posted by: Barbara on August 24, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Somewhere Peter G. Peterson is weeping.

The guy commits a billion dollars to build up a hysteria around an "Entitlements Crisis" via among other things the PGP Foundation that will panic the United States into enacting huge cuts in Medicare and Social Security and putting both on the long term road to extinction.

Now the Republican Party is up in arms at the very IDEA that you would CUT MEDICARE! Michael Steele and others are out there adding extra voltage and current to the Third Rail of American Politics. The Right, led by Peterson, have spent years and tens of millions of dollars convincing America that the biggest threat ever faced by this country is greedy Boomers taking Social Security and Medicare. Now given a shot at actually reducing those Medicare benefits just as Boomers actually begin to qualify for them suddenly the Republican Party rises up as the champions of what is after all really just Socialized Medicine.

I think the word we are looking for hovers somewhere in the gap between Tragi-Comedy and Farce. That liberals are in the position of having to show that health care reform can shave billions in wasted costs out of Medicaid and Medicare while not cutting care levels at all while Republicans are hysterically defending Gramma from those benefit cutting politicians is such a role reversal it makes your heads spin.

Twelve years ago Gingrich was calling for Medicare to 'wither on the vine', now he is defending Gramma from death panels intent on saving money for Medicare.

So much for message discipline Concord Coalition style. Sorry Pete! Better luck killing the New Deal next time!! Oh. You are 83 years old and won't be around for next time? Too bad, so sad.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on August 24, 2009 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, do we really need that particular reform? I mean, if IMAC was a conservative proposal in the first place but Michael Steele doesn't like it, well...

Posted by: Mike Goldman on August 24, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bless the day the Republicans chose Michael Steele for chair, because he is about as smart as a chair, and every day makes that more evident. Or maybe he's not stupid - maybe there's just no way to contradict the plain truth without appearing stupid. Still, the unquestioning loyalty of the Republican base will make him overreach one day; "Dems say the sky is blue: of course they do, they're DEMOCRATS. Anyone can see it's RED!!!" And the base will have to scratch it's head and say, "Huh??"

Seriously, I disagree with Always Hopeful, above. These people ARE stupid. They don't have to be, but they can't face the world as it is, so they choose to be stupid as long as they can get their news and information from someplace that tells them what they want to hear. I don't know whether they actually believe it, bit they embrace it, and that amounts to the same thing. And you can't fight that, anymore than you can make a man believe his wife is sleeping around if he doesn't want to believe it. You might make him doubt it, but you won't make him acknowledge it, and he'll hate you for trying.

It's an overused cliche, but Republicans and their troops are in denial. They can't face the truth, and they can't let go of their old scorched-earth tactics.

Anyway, look on the bright side. If they manage to kill healthcare reform AND Medicare, look at all the extra money the old folks will have for teabags!

Posted by: Mark on August 24, 2009 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Protecting private insurers' Medicare Advantage overgenous subsidies from Dems, I think.

Posted by: bob h on August 25, 2009 at 7:06 AM | PERMALINK

There is no mention of the primary driver of exploding health care costs. Too many people need to go to their doctors too often. In the last 30 years we have created a system in which millions of Americans, some even in their teens, are going to doctors every 6 months to get their blood pressure or cholesterol checked and a refill of one or several expensive prescriptions. Many of them also have diabesity, which is becoming the worst killer/crippler in human history. That adds several more medicines. Many have other lifestyle/diet related maladies such as heartburn (theres a pill or two for that), erectile dysfunction (there are pills for that), insomnia, anxiety, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and restless legs (are your legs telling you to get up and run?). Big Pharma has come up with pills for all of these and run ads on TV so that everyone knows that they are available.
Talk about fixing the broken healthcare system always includes a provision for covering pre-existing conditions. In the usual sense of the word, that is not insurance. Could you call up State Farm and buy fire insurance for your home if your kitchen was in flames and the fire engines on the way?
Heres the bottom line. Healthcare insurance in America is too expensive for the same reasons that flood insurance is so expensive in New Orleans and hurricane insurance is too expensive in South Florida. Too many people need to use it too often. If we took as poor care of our cars as we do our own bodies, auto insurance would be unaffordable too
You hear stories about someone lost his job and health insurance, cant afford his pills and worries hell get a heart attack and die. Dude! WAKE UP! Try eating healthy, walk daily and lose a few pounds! Save your own life!

Posted by: Cleaves M. Bennett MD on August 27, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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