Political Animal


May 27, 2011 8:00 AM A swing and a miss from Boehner on Medicare

By Steve Benen

Two weeks ago, a large group of House Republicans got together to call for some sort of rhetorical truce on Medicare. They acknowledged that they may have engaged in a little demagoguery to get elected in 2010, but they want to “wipe the slate clean” and “hit the reset button” now that they’re in office. No more “Mediscare” tactics, they said.

Two weeks later, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided he’s not quite done with these tactics after all.

“The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats,” said Boehner, “when they voted to cut $500 billion in Medicare during Obamacare.”

The line quickly answered questions about how the GOP would respond to the embarrassing defeat in the Buffalo-area special election this week. Republicans know they’re getting slammed over Medicare, so the House Speaker was sending a not-so-subtle about the new GOP message: “Against Medicare? Us? It’s those rascally Democrats who cut the program.”

Pressed by Greg Sargent, Boehner’s chief spokesperson went a little further.

“The Democrats’ health care law siphoned more than $500 billion away from Medicare into an unsustainable new entitlement — that’s a Medicare cut. Now, they are insisting on the status quo, which means Medicare’s bankruptcy and steep benefit cuts….”

Got that? Slam #1: Democrats undercut Medicare last year. Slam #2: By refusing to cut Medicare now, Democrats are indirectly supporting more Medicare cuts later.

The entire argument is such a shameless fraud, I almost feel embarrassed for Republicans. I mean, really, it’s as if the party isn’t even trying anymore. Practically every GOP lawmaker in both chambers is now on record supporting a ridiculous plan to end Medicare entirely, privatizing it out of existence, and replacing it with a voucher scheme. Suddenly realizing that the public hates this idea, the party is going back to the cheap rhetoric of 2010 that Republicans said two weeks ago they’re eager to move away from.

But if the Speaker’s office really wants to go down this road, fine. Let’s set the record straight.

First, Dems didn’t really “cut” Medicare, so much as they eliminated a wasteful and unnecessary giveaway to insurance companies. This didn’t undermine the program, it did the opposite, extending the health of Medicare financing for nearly another decade.

Second, Boehner’s argument is self-defeating since the House Republican budget plan keeps those alleged cuts in place — and the GOP caucus just endorsed the House Republican budget plan. In other words, the Speaker said yesterday that “only people” who’ve cut Medicare are Dems through the Affordable Care Act, but Boehner and his fellow Republicans voted to keep those same cuts in place.

Third, Boehner would prefer not to look back on his own record, but over the last 20 years, he personally has voted to cut more than $800 billion from Medicare. (Sorry, Mr. Speaker, Google still exists, and your record hasn’t disappeared down a memory hole.)

And finally, Boehner and his party want to end Medicare altogether. Why start a fight over which side of the aisle loves the program more when one party wants to privatize the program away?

Republicans created quite a mess for themselves and now appear to be flailing. They’re realizing that Americans love socialized medicine after all, which necessarily puts the GOP in a bit of a hole.

I can appreciate the party’s need for a new strategy, but Boehner’s message yesterday won’t cut it.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • John R on May 27, 2011 8:08 AM:

    From a letter to the NY Times on Krugman's column:

    If Paul Ryan were truly serious about his plan, he wouldn't have allowed it to be straitjacket by right-wing political ideology.

    A deficit-reduction plan that only addresses cuts to government social programs, while refusing to take into account the revenue-raising side of the equation, couldn't be sincere.

    A deficit-reduction plan that refuses to put the Bush tax cuts and defense spending on the table, cannot be objective.

    A deficit-reduction plan that includes absurd growth projections in order to make its numbers add up, cannot be honest.

    A deficit-reduction plan that is brimming with right-wing fantasy economics which ridiculously exaggerates the "trickle down" effects of tax cuts, cannot be truthful.

    A deficit-reduction plan that claims to "save" Medicare, yet replaces it with a voucher system that looks a lot like private health insurance, cannot be straightforward.

    A deficit-reduction plan that attempts to achieve its goals on the back of middle-class taxpayers and of the more vulnerable sectors of society, such as the youth and the elderly, cannot be humane.

    A deficit-reduction plan that doesn't achieve its stated objective of reducing the deficit, is no deficit-reduction plan.

    It isn't about demagoguing entitlement reform. It's about evenhandedness. One cannot ask a sector of society to make inordinate sacrifices, while fattening up another sector with tax cuts.

    It's not about hastening the debt crisis. It's about asking shared sacrifice. Not exempting some sectors from spending cuts or lavishing others with tax cuts.

  • c u n d gulag on May 27, 2011 8:12 AM:


    As I was saying before I got CAPTCA'D, and lost!

    OH, fuck it!


    I'm taking a break from commenting here after having to guess what that fucking fuck CAPTCHA wants me to fucking guess is some unfucking readable fucking alphabetic fucking algorithm!

    FUCK CAPTHCA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • j on May 27, 2011 8:12 AM:

    I just wrote to my senator (of choice) Bernie Sanders to congratulate him and the people of Vermont for the single payer health care (which Obama is expected to approve). How ironic is that - my actual senator is Burr, who is so useless he does not respond to constituents, and would not dream of voting against the republican line!

  • Danny on May 27, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Dems don't even have to go there unless Boehner et al gets traction for their silliness with the public. Because what they want to do is desperately change the subject and get bogged down in some complicated litigation.

    What's important to seniors is that disregarding Boehners lies Medicare works perfectly fine for seniors right now - with PPACA - but Boehner wants to privatize it, turn it into an underfunded voucher, and leave seniors ponying up 6000 of their own bucks a year and go shopping for private HCI.

  • FRP on May 27, 2011 8:20 AM:

    That eight hundred billion reeks of the "Special" arithmetic used against Democratic Presidential nominee Sen Kerry and how many and totus accumulative tax rises supported in his career in the campaign against draft dodger , and deserter , national hero to the privileged , Bush .
    It could not happen to a nicer guy , or a nicer "Party" .

  • Texas Aggie on May 27, 2011 8:26 AM:

    I get sort of a feeling of dread here. Steve's response to Boehner's idiocy is completely on target, but it depends on nuance. The American voter doesn't do nuance. All they do is sound bites and Boehner's sound bites are forceful and hard hitting. He'll get away with his dishonesty with enough people to maintain the republican dominance, especially since the MSM will take it up without trying to explain what the reality is.

    The MSM does equivalency instead of pointing out that one side is telling the truth and the other is lying, and the wingnuts will just say, "It's interesting that people's opinions differ so much" and go on believing that the world is flat.

    May I second c u n d gulag's motion?

  • DAY on May 27, 2011 8:29 AM:

    Benen deconstructs Boner. Sorry; Wonk causes MEGO.

    Public ears get perky with Lunzplanations:
    "Republicans vote to save Medicare, Democrats destroy it with ObamaCare."

  • Mr. Meade on May 27, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Please stop calling the GOP plan a voucher plan.

    It's an Underfunded Individual Mandate for Medicare needed to offset the cost of further tax cuts for the rich.

  • June on May 27, 2011 9:52 AM:

    If I were inclined to be charitable to John Boehner, I would say, here we have a Speaker who doesn't know the difference between cost cuts and cost savings. Democrats intiated $500B in cost savings in Medicare which Boehner is foolishly referring to as "cuts."

    That's what I would say if I were inclined to be charitable. But I think I'll just go with the truth that Boehner and all his ilk are pathetic, rabid liars.

  • Danny on May 27, 2011 10:00 AM:

    @Mr Meade

    I could see how you'd want to tie the Ryan plan in with PPACA if you hate both, but that aint gonna fly outside FDL..

    @Texas Aggie

    That's why Dems should stick to:

    Obamacare was passed, Granny is still fine but Granny wont be fine after the Ryan plan because 33 Grannies are gonna have to pay 6 grand out of pocket each year to pay for tax cuts for one billionaire.

  • Stephen Stralka on May 27, 2011 11:27 AM:

    I imagine the Republicans have concluded, not unreasonably, that there are no negative consequences to just lying their asses off. I guess we'll just have to wait until next year to see how many of the voters notice that the Republicans don't have asses.

  • John Dausend on June 17, 2011 3:27 AM:

    Why haven’t Articles like this been Written Properly on this Particular subject matter via your Paper ???

    Re: John Boehner ( Medicare / Healthcare Issue Debating ) Listen to this You won’t Believe It as we sometime have to go back and Recall History !!! Flip-Flop ???

    John Boehner’s Bloody Sunday ( March 21, 2010 ) Speech
    This Speech was Less then 15 Months Ago !!!
    Famous “Hell No !!!” / “Hell No, You Can’t !!!” Speech

    Words per Speaker John Boehner ( March 21, 2010 ):
    .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior Citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    It is time to reflect upon the History recently when John Boehner was not yet the Speaker of the House but instead was the House Minority Leader for the Republican Party.

    Topic: Prior -- Healthcare Legislation Debate while Boehner was Minority Leader
    & More Important Medicare specifically being Discussed !!!

    You must Listen to John Boehner from time 2:26 especially until 2:48 on this Video !!! But continue onto at minimum to 4:00 if you would, please. Listen to Other Parts additionally as well to Recall this Historical Speech because there are many good parts !!!
    [ The Entire Speech is Worth Watching ]
    Historic Speech by John Boehner - Bloody Sunday, 2010

    Words per Speaker John Boehner ( March 21, 2010 ):
    .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior Citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    Note: You will hear much Sarcastic Statements, Below:

    Personal Comments # 1:
Strengthening It ??? Strengthening Medicare ??? I thought I heard John Boenher in this Speech discuss the Strengthening of the Program we All call and know as “Medicare” !!!

    [ Lets Not forget the current Republican party Loss in New York’s District # 26, John Boehner had words on that Recently, Also !!! ]

    Personal Comments # 2:
    But John Boehner on March 21, 2010 states clearly that .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    [ Question: Are We Strengthening or Weakening Healthcare to Senior Citizens and other Americans with the New Republican Healthcare proposals ??? ]

    John Boehner in this speech talks about Not having Cuts in Medicare......He also mentions the Words [ Not Limit (Re: Doctors) ]......He also mentions to the sense of Not to Weaken the Program. What Program ??? Medicare, Right ??? He Again talks about Strengthening It, Vehemently !!! Again John Boehner’s words......”No You Can Not !!!”

    I thought the New Republican plan has to do with cuts to Healthcare/Medicare/Medicaid for the purpose of Savings ??? Big question always is Who gets the so called Savings ???

    Personal Comments # 3:
    Hold on a Minute !!! Isn’t this the Program (Medicare) the program which Rep. Paul Ryan and other Members including the current Speaker of the House John Boehner have the desires to End/Kill and Not Strengthen or Re-Structure ???

    Personal Comments # 4:
    Am I Right or am I Wrong in my Recollection on what is being Discussed currently by the Republican Party which includes John Boehner (vs.) what was previously discussed that day ( March 21, 2010 ) by John Boehner ???

    Personal Comments # 5:
    So Now the Need to Kill Medicare ??? When did the Tables on Medicare have to suddenly and necessarily be Turned ??? This Speech by John Boehner was on March 21, 2010. It is Less then 15 months Ago !!! Is there No Curiousness on this Matter ???

    Personal Comments # 6:
    The.....No You Can Not !!!”.....part of that Speech, again

    (Vs.) Contrast:
    [ Well isn’t Boehner telling his Republican constituents Now how to Align themselves forward on the Position of Killing Medicare ??? It sounded on March 21, 2010 that he was ( chess playing ) his constituents differently then in 2011 ???

    Personal Comments # 7:
    Am I well Tuned into this Non-Sense ( or ) am I the One with the Disconnect concerning the Current Need to Kill Medicare and other Health programs by the Republican Party ???

    Facts to Note: Rep. Paul Ryan has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 3, 1999 and John Boehner has been in the U.S. House of Representatives 8 Years Longer to that day ( On January 3, 1991 )

    Personal Comments # 8:
    And Now we have the Analysis from the Republican Party that they must go after Medicare and even Later I am sure Medicaid after having the Introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act being passed into Law ???

    Personal Comments # 9:
    Is Wall-Street / Lobbyist Involved in this Kill Medicare & Kill Medicaid scheme ??? Or are things Truly Legit ??? We already know that the Republican party has the Absolute desire to Kill the Affordable Healthcare Act !!!

    Personal Comments # 10:
    It sounds like to me that questions need to be posed to John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Eric Cantor, Senator Mitch Mc.Connell, and other Members, I do Believe !!!

    Maybe media News Sources should contact their Offices ???

    Is this also another Conservative coordinated effort/collaboration similar to the efforts made against Unions and Collective bargaining, Recently ???

    Same Speech on March 21, 2010:
    [ Less then 15 Months Ago !!! ]
    ( Shorter Clip on same Words as Per ABC News )
    [ It does contain a Commercial, this Video ]

  • John Dausend on June 19, 2011 3:30 AM:

    The Comments by this Person is uncalled for and should be Removed, it is Ridiculous and Unnecessary profanity. The Users Name is "c u n d gulag" and it was written on May 27, 2011 8:12 AM: It should be permanently removed from this Article do to it's inappropriateness and detraction to other readers here on this page. Items posted of this Nature should be Monitored prior to the allowing of these types of postings being released on any page.

    Thank You Respectfully

  • LucasLana28 on September 12, 2011 7:43 AM:

    If you want to buy a house, you will have to get the loans. Furthermore, my mother always takes a college loan, which seems to be really useful.