Call it ‘Medi-scare’ if you like, it’s still true

Apparently, Republicans have a new definition of demagoguery: Telling the truth about what Republicans want to do.

After Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in New York on Tuesday largely by attacking the Republican plan to privatize Medicare championed by Rep. Paul Ryan, Ryan said this:

And what they do in this particular case with Medicare, they are shamelessly demagoguing it and distorting this — we call it Medi-scare — to try and scare seniors.

Yglesias had a good post yesterday pointing out the long pedigree of the term “Medi-scare.” William Safire accused Bill Clinton of engaging in “Medi-scare” when he attacked then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich for a plan to slowly privatize the program. Gingrich, remember, admitted that his plan and hope was for Medicare to “whither on the vine.” Pointing that out was decried as demagoguery. Bob Dole hit the same note during the 1996 campaign:

Instead of working with Republicans and with the Democrats to try to secure, preserve and strengthen Medicare, the President chose to engage in a campaign to scare American seniors. We call it Mediscare! Mediscare! Mediscare! All the ads you see in Florida, all the ads you see in Florida, are negative Mediscare ads!

Again, the Republican plan wasn’t to secure, preserve or strengthen Medicare. It was to see it whither on the vine. To be fair to Gingrich, his plan was far less radical than Ryan’s. He would have preserved traditional Medicare while instituting a private option that he hoped would make the public option look unattractive. As a cost-savings mechanism, however, that approach has been pretty well proven not to work.

So, is it still Medi-scare if it’s true? For all of Ryan’s complaints about demagoguing and distorting, Democrats have been doing little more than describing what the plan would actually do: Replace Medicare’s guaranteed health coverage with vouchers for private insurance – vouchers almost guaranteed not to cover the full price of care. Now there’s been some silliness from usually reliable fact-checking organizations about whether ending Medicare as we know it is the same thing as ending Medicare, but the basic outline of Ryan’s plan is indisputable – and pretty well understood by the public, it seems to me. And the public hates it.

That’s not demagoguery.

20 Responses to Call it ‘Medi-scare’ if you like, it’s still true

  1. James Gilligan says:

    Demagogue it all you want. Obama’s plan ends Medicare as we know it and you know it. You’re squeezing the facts for electoral benefits. I’m all for a discussion. Are you?

  2. James Gilligan says:

    ‘Why do you say “Obama’s plan ends Medicare as we know it “?’

    Um, because it does:

    What? You didn’t know that?

    • Joe Mostowey says:

      James Gilligan Wrote “Um, because it does:
      What? You didn’t know that?”

      I’ve read the opinion piece previously, as many rightwing nuts on other forums use such as a way to justify their arguments without actually checking to see if what is said in the opinion piece is fact or fiction.

      I mean the author of such interesting material as listed below wouldn’t have a vested interest in propaganda, now would he.?

      “Private Social Security Accounts: Still a Good Idea,” by William Shipman and Peter Ferrara, The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2010

      10 Reasons to Oppose Virginia Sales Tax Increases,” by Chris Edwards and Peter Ferrara, Briefing Paper no. 75, September 18, 2002.

      “The Failed Critique of Personal Accounts,” Briefing Paper no. 68, October 8, 2001.

      “Social Security Is Still a Hopelessly Bad Deal for Today’s Workers,” Social Security Choice Paper no. 18, November 29, 1999.

      “The Next Steps for Medicare Reform,” Policy Analysis no. 305, April 29, 1998.

      “A Plan for Privatizing Social Security,” Social Security Choice Paper no. 8, April 30, 1997.

      Seems the GOP, and their mouthpieces like Cato have been seeking to kill SS and Medicare for a long, long time.

      BTW, Are you on Medicare or social security?

  3. Dan Radmacher says:

    Thanks, Jim, for that reminder of Republican hypocrisy. After passage of the Affordable Care Act, they demagogued the issue and promised to protect Medicare. After the November 2010 election, Republicans proposed far steeper cuts to Medicare – cuts without any cost-control mechanism to actually reduce health care costs, unlike the Affordable Care Act – which has methods that would cut health care costs, as opposed to simply shifting those costs onto seniors.

  4. James GIlligan says:

    The crux of the IPAB issue is that it bypasses Congress and the Congress’ lack of will in the face of political realities. While technocrats might welcome the efficiency of this arrangement, we democrats find if offensive to give Constitutionally bestowed Congressional powers to an unelected board. A board that, by all accounts, will restrict doctors’ and hospitals’ fees much like the current apparatus fails to do. Why you think this arrangement will be successful only you can explain.

    Obamacare’s solution is very similar to the one suggested in the ’90s by Newt Gingrich, a solution for which he was justly pilloried. Obama, at least, in offering his solution, is willing to admit that Medicare as it presently exists is unsustainable and stands to bankrupt us. So far as I can tell you fellows suggest doing nothing which I consider a prescription for ending Medicare “as we know it”.

    No, despite the fact I have no reason to disclose everything fully, I am not currently under Medicare nor do I receive any benefits from the Social Security Administration. My former employer will force me into Medicare in about five years and I suspect I’ll apply for Social Security benefits in as little as two years…

  5. Joe Mostowey says:

    James GIlligan Wrote “No, despite the fact I have no reason to disclose everything fully, I am not currently under Medicare nor do I receive any benefits from the Social Security Administration. My former employer will force me into Medicare in about five years and I suspect I’ll apply for Social Security benefits in as little as two years…”


    In that case, one would watch the two parties very closely. When you state “My former employer will force me into Medicare in about five years” does that mean you will be unable to afford decent coverage with a private insurer? That is the crux of many American’s problem -on their own, they cannot afford health insurance that will cover them, and still be able to pay the co-pays and for other necessities.

    It’s not just the elderly that are worried. Many American workers have seen health insurance premiums soar, coverage shrink, and medical costs outpace the amount of coverage they can afford.

    Many retirees, once covered under employer health care packages have seen the courts strip away their benefits under company reorganizations, while CEO benefits climb.

    I know of one well known telecommunications company here in Virginia that changed hands three times in less than a decade where the original employees of the company lost all their retirement from their service with the company under it’s original name.

    As the Indians noted with treaties long ago, that they are simply scraps of paper that mean nothing when those in power choose to ignore them, so too is today’s worker finding out that contracts have the same value.

    In time Obamacare may become something valuable, as Medicare did once it grew up. Medicare in it’s infancy was not one of the best programs. It has improved somewhat. If Obamacare surpasses in benefits and ease of use today’s current Medicare, it may be a possible replacement – unlike Gingrich’s plan quoted below :

    “Dole, who was running for president and trying to shore up support among hard-core conservatives, boasted: “If you’re looking for leadership, … somebody who has been a career conservative, long before many of them showed up around this town — I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare — one of 12, because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” That very same day, Gingrich explained that Republicans weren’t trying to get rid of Medicare all at once “because we don’t think that that’s politically smart,” but were trying to cause it to “wither on the vine.”

  6. Dan Radmacher says:


    Do you really think it’s a good idea for Congress – 535 politicians – to set reimbursement rates and determine what procedures are most effective? Obama’s approach is nothing like Newt Gingrich’s – but if it was, then you’d have to admit that Republicans were demogoguing the issue in 2010, wouldn’t you?

    IPAP is a promising approach that dozens of experts believe has much potential to actually lower health care costs.

    Whereas Ryan’s approach would simply shift those costs onto seniors. If Ryan was right and private insurance was the key to lowering health care costs, then how come our market-driven health care system has had so little ability to keep costs under control?

    You said you were ready for a discussion, Jim. So far, you haven’t presented much of one.

  7. james gilligan says:

    Dan said, “You said you were ready for a discussion, Jim. So far, you haven’t presented much of one.”

    Well, there’s discussion and then there’s capitulation. I’m not sure the tag-team format is conducive to discussion and don’t believe “discussion” is really your motive here.

    Medicare is unsustainable in it’s present form. Obama has indicated his understanding of that by suggesting IPAB. Under IPAB lower costs will be imposed on providers of medical services and the patients will be forced to take whatever they get.

    Ryan would at least give patients choices among diminishing services. There are a few glimmers of hope in the marketplace. Physicians are banding together and opening emergency care clinics. Some Wal-Mart’s are offering physicians services at in-store clinics for affordable care that is not critical.

    Your solution, as always, is more government. Despite the fact I know you hate personal anecdotal evidence, when the quality of my insurance diminished I took a more active role in my own care. An NP in my cardiologist’s office had combined my blood pressure medication with a diuretic, eliminating one pill. Swell. I can go back to two pills (both generics whose patents have expired) and go from $130/month to $6/month. The net effect: same medical care with a $124 per month savings.

    I can get affordable medical care. I don’t need insurance companies or bureaucrats to do it for me. When you cede limited personal freedoms to the government there is some peril to your greater freedoms. You may be willing to accept some compromise in that area. I am not. You may see this as the trade-off necessary to do greater good. I see incredible naivete. No entitlement is worth ceding your freedom.

  8. Dan Radmacher says:

    The irony here, Jim, as you malign my motives – a trait I don’t recall from your Ohiocounty days – is that IPAB could look at experiences like yours and make recommendations that could save billions of dollars by spreading your $124 a month savings across millions of Medicare recipients.

    The whole idea behind IPAB is smarter care.

    As Harold Pollack, a signer of the letter I referenced above, said, “This is about whether we’re going to use decades of health policy research to target ineffective treatments. There are a lot of people who see the value in that who are across the political spectrum. If one keeps raising the issue respectfully, and with some substance, it won’t go away.”

    You may want the freedom to choose between health care and food in your old age, but Medicare has done an excellent job of ensuring that seniors aren’t faced with that decision, and it has done so without limiting anyone’s freedom.

    Americans will not let Paul Ryan kill that with some untested experiment in privatization.

  9. Dan Radmacher says:

    Oh, and your Marco Rubio YouTube in your first post: Pure demagoguery.

    In fact, Ryan’s plan cuts Medicare and tries to reduce costs by setting up a health insurance exchange much like the one envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, only just for the oldest, sickest segment of the population. While the Affordable Care Act would work by bringing millions upon millions of healthy Americans into the risk pool, Ryan thinks he can bring down insurance prices for, again, the oldest, sickest segment of the population.

    And pundits praise Ryan for his courage.

    There is no courage, or honesty in Ryan’s approach. He would simply shift the cost of health care onto those who can least afford it and hope the private sector would cover them for a fraction of what their cost of care is estimated to be.

    It’s a fairy tale that deserves to be exposed.

  10. James Gilligan says:

    Your “fact-checking” organization missed this one. Rubio is not quite the demagogue that democrats in NY-26 were…

    I’m sorry to malign your motives. I didn’t realize that cries of “demagogue” and “hypocrite” constituted any kind of “discussion”. Do you, as Obama does, agree that Medicare is unsustainable? Is it your position that services, therefore, must be rationed to serve as many seniors as possible? Is it not possible that in a plethora of competing service providers we might actually increase the level of service at a lower cost? If not, why do we solicit bids?

  11. Dan Radmacher says:

    Intriguing, Jim. The folks in your link say Obama has already gutted Medicare – but Ryan sees Obama’s cuts and ups them by a hundred billion or so over the next decade.

    So, if Republicans attacked Obamacare for gutting Medicare, how can they possibly support what Ryan proposes, unless they are being demagogues and hypocrites?

    My position is that something must be done to lower the rate of increase of health care costs – not just for Medicare but to keep health care affordable for all. And my position is that the approach taken by the Affordable Care Act has a much greater chance of success than throwing seniors into a private market that most likely won’t even want them.

    • james gilligan says:

      Every public buying entity and most private buying entities require soliciting three bids (or more) for each purchase of any size. Why is that? Each bidder, knowing his is only one of many bids, sharpens his pencil and bids as low as he dares. Competition (and competitive bidding) brings the lowest prices. Single payer will not. Single payer will simply ration services. Genuine competition gives us the best opportunity to take some of the cost out of the equation.

      Hayek proved (back in the day when Nobel Prizes were awarded AFTER the work was done) that central planning agencies like IPAB robbed us of our liberties. Willingly surrendering your freedoms to the government is the first baby-step to tyranny. Best of luck with that.

      • Dan Radmacher says:

        Actually, Jim, there’s absolutely no reason Medicare can’t solicit bids. After all, the health care services are provided by private entities. Why can’t Medicare, even as a single payer, put those private entities into competition with one another?

        IPAB takes freedom from no one.

  12. jamesgilligan says:

    Dan said, “IPAB takes freedom from no one.”

    Except those who want a say in their own health care…

  13. James GIlligan says:

    Back at you. In fact, when this discussion (which apparently was unsatisfactory on my part) began you were calling it “IPAP” (or something).

    Nevertheless, while virtually none of IPAB’s particulars have been available for public scrutiny, the White House says that IPAB is barred from rationing care. Stellar. IPAB is indeed restricted from rationing care. But since it can control prices it logically follows that health care providers will withdraw services to comply with IPAB’s price manipulations. From an economic perspective, what happens when prices are restricted? Supply diminishes until the service (or product) becomes scarce. This isn’t speculation – it’s the law.

    Monopolies do not work. How curious that an internationally discredited system would gain credence in the United States at the very moment it is rejected around the world? We’re embracing European-style socialism just when Europe is trying to extricate itself from the morass. You think Greece will remain solvent? They’ve almost reformed. If Greece falls will Ireland be close behind? Spain? Italy?

    You said in another thread that $14 trillion in debt is not insurmountable. Do your really believe that? California, which competes with Illinois for most fiscally dysfunctional state, has a score of cities and counties that will be eligible for bankruptcy protection before 2020. Mayor Villaraigosa estimates that Los Angeles will file before 2017. It isn’t just $14 trillion – it’s more like $144 trillion.

    I heard an advertisement from a dot-org claiming that we couldn’t survive without a healthy public expenditure in public transportation. “Call your Congressman today!…” Please explain to me how spending beyond our means is responsible or constitutes good government. You cannot.

    I don’t care if the republicans or the democrats are the major force behind responsible governmental spending. Where do you stand?

  14. Joe Mostowey says:

    There is a place where conservative values are strongly embraced, where the entire gauntlet of republican values are incorporated into the government, low taxes are the norm, patriotism is high, the church is revered and is every politicians highest priority next to national defense.

    God Willing, the Republicans and Conservatives here in the USA will never prevail.


    “With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

    It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

    This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

    The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

    So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.”

    Excerpt From: Our Fantasy Nation?

  15. Joe Mostowey says:

    James GIlligan Wrote “You said in another thread that $14 trillion in debt is not insurmountable. Do your really believe that? California, which competes with Illinois for most fiscally dysfunctional state, has a score of cities and counties that will be eligible for bankruptcy protection before 2020. Mayor Villaraigosa estimates that Los Angeles will file before 2017. It isn’t just $14 trillion – it’s more like $144 trillion. ”


    The USA Government at one time (During WWII) had a deficit that was 120% of our GDP.

    Perhaps the following link will cheer you up, if our nation debt, and finances are what is worrying you.

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