While Bush Ignores Medicare, Right Wingers Want Even More Political Hari Kari on Private Accounts
(Graphic from the Washington Post)
Yesterday, we saw the latest report by the Social Security system trustees on the financial status of the Social Security and Medicare system. And while the Bush Administration tried to hijack the report’s release by emphasizing what the report said about Social Security and ignoring Medicare and what private accounts do to the system's solvency, the report painted a picture of Medicare that is downright scary and squarely the responsibility of George W. Bush.
The two independent trustees overseeing Social Security and Medicare broke with the Bush administration's trustees yesterday, saying Medicare's financial problems far exceed Social Security's and are in urgent need of attention.
Republican Thomas R. Saving and Democrat John L. Palmer said Social Security's condition has changed little since they joined the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees in 2000. But in the trustees' report released yesterday, they wrote that Medicare's prospects have "deteriorated dramatically" with rising medical costs and the addition in 2003 of a prescription drug benefit.
"The financial outlook for Social Security has improved marginally since 2000," wrote Saving and Palmer. "In sharp contrast, Medicare's financial outlook has deteriorated dramatically over the past five years and is now much worse that Social Security's."
"The question in my mind is why are we talking about saving Social Security?" said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative commentator with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
And why is Bush responsible for the mess in Medicare?
The government would have to put aside $11.1 trillion today to finance Social Security's promised benefits indefinitely, the trustees reported. But just the new Medicare prescription drug benefit included in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act has an unfunded liability of $18.2 trillion projected out infinitely.
"The problem is, they've got the cart before the horse," Bartlett said of the Bush administration. "They've made Medicare vastly worse, and now they're saying to be responsible, we have to take on Social Security. It's utterly illogical."
And the most delicious thing in all of these difficulties that Bush has created for himself with Social Security and Medicare is that he refuses to fix the latter, which ensures that the Trustees’ own report can be used against the GOP like a club in next year’s midterm elections. Yet Bush wants to plunge ahead and tackle Social Security, while his agitated far right base wants him to adopt even more out-of-step positions on private accounts in a sort-of political kamikaze fashion. What does the right wing want Bush to do?
They want him to not only advocate that all and even more of an employee’s current contributions should be redirected to private accounts, but that the transition costs for sucking money out of the current system would be paid for with budget cuts.
Sure, that should be really popular with the working classes. Go ahead Einsteins; try that one on the voters next year. The only way to finance the transition costs with budget cuts of that magnitude would be to not only savage domestic discretionary spending, but to also cut homeland security and the Pentagon as well.
And do these right wing rocket scientists think they can sell the notion in next year’s midterms that we need to gut education, Medicare and Medicaid, environmental, law enforcement, homeland security, and national defense spending just so that younger workers can dabble in the stock market?
Please Mr. Bush, listen to these nimrods and do as they want. I would love to see the Democrats retake both the House and Senate when you run on that agenda.