Skip to content

The Republican Con of Senior Citizens

When my mother became senile and we took over her finances, we discovered that she had been repeatedly conned by companies whose sole business seemed to be preying on the weaknesses of seniors. One company was pulling money directly out of her checking account for “magazine subscriptions” that were more expensive than if she were paying newsstand prices. Others were charging exorbitant premiums for questionable insurance policies.

I was reminded of this when reading about the new Republican budget proposal from Paul Ryan that (among other things) eliminates our current Medicare system and replaces it with a giant giveaway to the health insurance companies.

As The Nation puts it:

One of the most fundamental tensions in our politics is that senior citizens are, simultaneously, the demographic group that most benefits from the welfare state and the one most sympathetic to the right-wing push to abolish it. The only age group in which McCain beat Obama was voters 60 and older. Part of the reason Democrats fared poorly in 2010 is that voters 60 and older made up 34 percent of the electorate, up from 23 percent in 2008. Senior citizens were also the group most opposed to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, with 58 percent now in favor of repeal.

This produces all kinds of bizarre, contradictory results, like the iconic Tea Party protester who warned the government to keep its hands off his Medicare.

The Republican Party plays both sides of this game. In 2003 they passed Medicare Part D, a multi-billion-dollar deficit-increasing giveaway to the pharmaceutical companies in the guise of a massive entitlement program that was purely designed to buy senior votes. They attacked Obama’s health care reform effort, claiming it would cut $500 billion from Medicare. Not to mention the (totally false) “death panel” hysteria.

But now they are going to gut Medicare in the name of deficit reduction. Will seniors fall for this con?

UPDATE: Matt Taibbi has a brilliant rant on just how dishonest and calculating Ryan’s budget proposal actually is. A few choice quotes:

The Republicans, quite smartly, recognize that there is great political hay to be made in the appearance of deficit reduction, and that white middle class voters will respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to any call for reductions in the “welfare state,” a term which said voters will instantly associate with black welfare moms and Mexicans sneaking over the border to visit American emergency rooms.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

The last ten years or so have seen the government send massive amounts of money to people in the top tax brackets, mainly through two methods: huge tax cuts, and financial bailouts. The government has spent trillions of our national treasure bailing out Wall Street, which has resulted directly in enormous, record profit numbers – nearly $100 billion in the last three years (and that doesn’t even count the tens of billions more in inflated compensation and bonuses that came more or less directly from government aid). … But the issue is being presented as if the debt comes entirely from growth in entitlement spending. It’s bad enough that middle-class taxpayers have been forced in the last few years to subsidize the vacations and beach houses of the idiots who caused the financial crisis, and it’s doubly insulting that they’re now being blamed for the budget mess.



  1. Michael wrote:

    The Ryan budget is completely ludicrous. Krugman had some nice points about it. For one, it makes the assumption that tax cuts will kick off an employment boom. How large? Well, it’s based on a Heritage Foundation report that originally predicted the boom would bring unemployment down to 2.8% (which last happened in the Korean War).

    The bigger problem with the Medicare portion is that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s proposed vouchers would provide only a third of the cost for private coverage equivalent to current Medicare benefits. So that means seniors will have to start paying a crapload for insurance, right? Nope. Seniors vote. And lobby. Which means they would eventually get vouchers that cost taxpayers triple what Medicare does. How is that good for the budget?

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  2. Infidel753 wrote:

    The Republicans may not be able to play the game that way much longer. In the teabaggers, they’ve found their dream constituency — a group that really believes their rhetoric and is impervious to contradictory evidence from the real world. Unfortunately that dream constituency has turned into a nightmare as the teabaggers aren’t fooled by rhetoric that remains just rhetoric. They’re already throwing a fit at Boehner for compromising with Obama on the budget.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  3. Jeff wrote:

    The cycle of medicare and other entitlements is that conservatives cut their funding and then bemoan their failure as being exactly what they anticipated, neglecting to point out that their own budget cuts are what caused the failure. This leads to more cuts, more failure, and we end up in a place where everything is controlled by the private sector and those of us who can’t afford a piece of the pie don’t get any.

    It’s the same game with education, and just about everything else outside of the military. This latest budget plan doesn’t solve any problems but it does create some interesting issues of its own.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    Back to the tax cuts to the rich. “let them expire” I just looked through Obama’s 2009 return. He has no loopholes. In fact, he invested in government treasuries (losing on some) to stimulate our economy which is what treasuries do (or pay off our debt)

    He took the Nobel Peace prize and donated 1.4 mill to charities. The IRS ruled that if he kept none and gave it directly to charities, he owed no tax on the Prize,neither could he take any deductions. He just gave it all away to help our country.

    His income was over 5 million. $370,000 as president, rest from his self employment as an author.

    The biggest help to our economy is to “LET THE TAX CUTS TO THE RICH EXPIRE” Redistribute wealth like Obama did.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Marie wrote:

    Could the reason seniors are “for” anything that has to do with entitlement reform be because they are always exempt from whatever cut is being discussed? And with the first baby boomers now approaching the age of 65, they seem like a pretty good voting block to put the screws to everyone else.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Until they (Rs and Ds) get serious about increasing the taxes on the wealthy and big business, screw the spending cuts! Don’t cut a damn dime until they return the tax code to where it was 10-15 years ago because until then we can only assume that they are not really serious about reducing the deficit.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    I should add that I speak as a Senior on Medicare A,B,C,D. You see,my guess is that the majority of comfortable seniors don’t want the tax cuts. Certainly no one in my family of three siblings. Only one of us could be considered “wealthy” but we all will be paying more if the tax cuts are rescinded. WEalth REdistribution.

    Monday, April 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink