Peter Cavanaugh

Goodbye Medicare?

Now - only one man stands in their way. As our new Republican Congress adjourned for a hardly earned Easter recess last Friday, the Senate completed work on their Fiscal Year 2016 Budget by a final vote of 52 to 46. It slashes $431 billion from Medicare over the next ten years without ever saying how.

An earlier House of Representatives budget, approved 228 to 199, was more specific, whacking a cool $148 billion from Medicare funding and converting the program to a voucher system with strict, controlled limitations on benefits.

Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, states, “Both the house and senate versions of the budget hurts seniors and puts retirement security at risk. Make no mistake. These budgets are radically anti-retiree.”

It’s a solid fact.

Although a final budget will be structured in conference between House and Senate when Congress reconvenes, no matter whom you voted for or how much it’s become fashionable to publicly despise his name in certain circles as a sign of fraternal conviviality, without Barack Obama - you can kiss Medicare, as we know it, goodbye.

For republicans, this should be a wake up call. For democrats, it’s a frightening glance at how close we hover at the abyss. Both budgets also call for tax breaks into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires, significantly increased defense spending, a sharp cutback in social programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan for little children and, of course, demand a complete end to The Affordable Care Act of 2010 a full five years after its enactment.

This major legislative achievement finally has us on the road to catch up with the rest of the civilized world in universal health care, but has unfortunately encountered the potentially terminal misfortune of being labeled, “Obama Care.”

I am convinced if it were named “Second Amendment Anti-Sickness Rights” up here in the foothills everyone would love it. And they should.

So as the game kicks in again in DC, we’ll see a bunch of congressional get-togethers and some sort of compromise language developed which will be folded together, voted upon and sent to our president to be signed into law.

This, thank the Lord and all things holy - including lots of fine republicans who understand The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t about horseracing - he doesn’t have to do.

An official White House statement says it best: “The president has been clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration or one that increases funding for our national security without providing matching increases in funding for our economic security. The administration will continue to abide by these principles moving forward.”

If Cyrano de Bergerac had a very big nose – Barack Obama has an extra big no.

As we hopefully learned in Social Studies many years ago, a presidential veto can only be overcome by a two-thirds vote in each chamber. Historically, congress has overridden fewer than 10% of all presidential vetoes.

Our own Fourth District Congressman Tom McClintock predictably chastised governmental spending in his own budgetary narrative, referencing “the ominously growing shadow of unprecedented debt that has literally double in the last eight years” – outrageously blaming “this administration” for the shortfall, not the trillions of dollars wasted in unnecessary warfare and tax favors for the rich supported by McClintock and his party time and time again.

Any pending theoretical deficits in Medicare or Social Security down the road can be immediately remedied by such measures as increasing the taxable wage cap above the current $118.5 thousand in annual personal income, increasing tax rates on those earning above, say, a million dollars a year or more, and continuing to develop and encourage operational efficiencies.

At a time when economic disparity has never been more pronounced in our American society, many feel we should look at actually increasing Social Security benefits for our elderly. In fact, this exact idea was brought up as a formal budget proposal in the Senate only last week by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The amendment lost on almost a completely straight party line vote.

That was to be expected from this 114th Congress - facing Barack Obama, our commander-in-chief through 2016 - unfairly bloodied - but fiercely unbowed.

You may count on him.