Nancy Pelosi was a guest on Fox News Sunday today. During the interview, Chris Wallace asked what may be the mother of all “Cavuto Marks” of a question. Pelosi gave as good as she got.
Here’s what Wallace “asked:”
“The main driver of the debt is entitlements. Sixty percent of our budget, our spending is on entitlements. When Medicare started, life expectancy was 70, it’s now 79. Don’t you have to raise the eligibility age and slow the growth of benefits? Isn’t that the way to deal with the deficit?”
Pelosi threw it right back at him.
“OK, I’m glad you brought up Medicare because don’t you think you should – to use your ‘question:' 'don’t you?’ Don’t you think you ought to see if raising the age really does save money? Those people are not going to evaporate from the face of the earth for 2 years, they’re going to have medical needs, and they’re going to have to be attended to, and the earlier intervention for it, the less the cost will be, and the better the quality of life. …I do think that the challenge in Medicare is not Medicare. The challenge is rising medical health care costs in general. …I think that there is money to be saved there and I don’t think it has to come out of benefits for beneficiaries and I don’t think you have to raise the age.”
Joe Conason has an interesting column in which he notes that while Republicans argue that raising taxes on the rich won’t make a significant dent in the deficit (as Wallace argued in this interview), raising the age of Medicare eligibility will save even less. But it will cost lives.
Why do Speaker John Boehner and the Republican majority in the House so badly want to put Medicare out of reach of elders younger than 67? It will be costly to their most loyal voting constituency among older whites. And it won’t save much money, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest study — which shows that the estimated $148 billion in savings over 10 years is largely offset by increased insurance costs, lost premiums and higher subsidies that will be paid as a consequence. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers an even more stringent analysis, which shows that raising the eligibility age in fact will result in total costs higher than the putative federal savings — which amount to around $50 billion over 10 years. Contrast that with the savings achieved by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which amounts to well over $1 trillion during the same period — and it becomes clear which party wants to reduce deficits.
Assuming that the savings are mostly mythical, the only sensible assumption is that Republican politicians and financiers simply hate Medicare, a highly successful and popular federal program that the right has been trying to destroy, with one tactic or another, ever since its establishment in 1965. They don’t really care whether their alleged solutions save money or improve efficiency. They want a privately-funded medical system that preserves profits rather than a system that improves and expands health care, as Medicare has done for almost half a century.