Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare are scary

Confirming the warnings and worst fears of progressives, House Speaker Paul Ryan made it plain this week: the ultimat...

Posted: Dec 9, 2017 8:49 AM
Updated: Dec 9, 2017 8:49 AM

Confirming the warnings and worst fears of progressives, House Speaker Paul Ryan made it plain this week: the ultimate aim of Republican lawmakers -- and their number one priority in January -- is to shrink the Medicare program that provides health insurance to the elderly and disabled.

"Next year we're going to have to get back at entitlement reform," Ryan said on a Wisconsin radio talk show, calling Medicare the "biggest entitlement that's got to have reform."

That's code for resuming a decades-long fight against government-supported health care by conservatives, who fought bitterly against the creation of Medicare in 1965 and have been trying to cripple or kill the program ever since.

Recall that the creation of health insurance for America's poor and elderly -- something that President Harry Truman attempted, without success, in 1945, 1947 and 1949 -- was frustrated at every turn by conservatives in both political parties.

As CNN contributor Julian Zelizer has recounted, the program finally got passed following the Democratic landslide of 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson's re-election against Barry Goldwater swept commanding Democratic majorities into the House (295 seats) and Senate (68 seats).

Democrats got the long-sought program for senior health care: in 1965 Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law with Truman sitting at his side. The ex-president was enrolled as the program's first member.

But conservative opposition never wavered or waned. In the closing weeks before final passage of the Medicare bill, Ronald Reagan -- then a rising star in conservative Republican politics -- recorded a famous message calling Medicare "socialism" and urging voters to contact member of Congress and urge a "no" vote.

If Medicare should pass, Reagan warned, "behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country. And if you don't do this and if I don't do it, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

For a certain type of hard-right conservative Republican, Reagan's call remains relevant and urgent to this day. Having failed to repeal Medicare outright -- the program is wildly popular, serving more than 55 million seniors (about 15% of the US population, says AARP) and disabled Americans -- Republicans have moved to a three-part "starve the beast" strategy.

Part one is to slash taxes and drastically lower the amount of revenue available to the federal government. The tax bill that GOP majorities recently approved in both houses of Congress accomplishes that nicely, adding $1 trillion to the federal budget deficit under the most optimistic economic scenario, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

Part two of the plan is to suddenly recoil in horror at the fact of the budget deficit (yes, the same one that Republicans happily conjured up by cutting taxes). Ryan's radio interview is a step in that direction. "Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt," he said -- just days after happily adding a trillion to the tab with tax cuts.

Piling up debt and deficits sets the stage for the third and concluding strategy: to lower the debt by dialing back Medicare eligibility, lowering the benefits and otherwise crippling the program.

Democrats warned about this throughout the debate over the tax cut bill, which passed without a single Democratic vote in the House or Senate. They must now gear up for a showdown with Ryan and other conservatives who are poised to take a big step in the direction of ending a program that Reagan Republicans wanted to eliminate from Day One.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 155597

Reported Deaths: 2208
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31877528
Washington21211212
Marion18468285
Clackamas13380175
Lane10258126
Jackson8395112
Umatilla765982
Deschutes595259
Yamhill378364
Linn359056
Malheur335158
Polk306442
Klamath279155
Douglas247454
Benton234416
Josephine234050
Jefferson195828
Coos149119
Union128419
Columbia126521
Wasco122126
Lincoln113220
Hood River106929
Morrow104914
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6567
Curry4296
Tillamook4142
Lake3766
Harney2736
Grant2231
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3566914

Reported Deaths: 52158
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119192321435
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2866072874
Orange2612203917
San Diego2600913284
Santa Clara1106211777
Kern102627827
Fresno953931443
Sacramento932811472
Alameda806681242
Ventura77623844
San Joaquin665691101
Contra Costa62248681
Stanislaus56132946
Tulare47784758
Monterey42138328
San Mateo38998515
San Francisco34260412
Santa Barbara31805411
Solano30024164
Merced28915397
Sonoma28141298
Imperial26903591
Kings21955218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15467209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12834185
Shasta10985174
Butte10962160
El Dorado9095100
Napa903869
Sutter884597
San Benito576759
Yuba573337
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Nevada396074
Tuolumne394659
Mendocino379643
Amador346341
Humboldt318033
Lake315641
Glenn222523
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128737
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 47°
Brookings
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Medford
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 47°
Medford
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 47°
Klamath Falls
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 25°
Very mild start to March
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events