On 2011-08-03, at 3:54 PM, Doug Henwood wrote:
> A lot of people are fine with budget cuts in the abstract, but if they find out that their SS check will take a $100/month hit or their Medicare copay is going to go up 20%, the political environment could change markedly.
The Republicans have wasted no time trumpeting that they will renege on the vague bipartisan promises in the debt deal that Social Security and Medicare will be protected. But, as is evident from Cantor's remarks below, beneath the bravado is a lingering unease that pushing deep cuts to these programs could change the political environment markedly if Obama and the Democrats - on the campaign trail rather than governing - choose to make the issue a central one in next year's elections.
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Cantor Suggests Entitlement Promises Will Be Broken By SIOBHAN HUGHES Wall Street Journal August 3 2011
WASHINGTON—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday suggested that Republicans will continue a push to overhaul programs such as Medicare, saying in an interview that "promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many" and that younger Americans will have to adjust.
"What we have to be I think focused on is truth in budgeting here," Mr. Cantor (R., Va.) told The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal. He said "the better way" for Americans is to "get the fiscal house in order" and "come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many."
His comments suggest that Republicans are committed to overhauling entitlement programs such as Medicare even after President Barack Obama signed into law a debt package under which Medicare recipients weren't hit with direct cuts. Congress left Medicare recipients untouched directly in order to win enough Democratic votes for the debt package to become law.
But Republicans could make a new push to cut back on Medicare as the debt-reduction deal is implemented. The law initially provides for $917 billion in spending cuts over a decade, but a bipartisan committee of lawmakers must come up with by Nov. 23 a proposal to find another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. The panel's members—half of whom will be Republican lawmakers—could try again to change Medicare.
"When we came out with our budget, we said, look, let's at least put people on notice, but preserve those who are 55 and older," Mr. Cantor said, referring to a Republican-written budget plan that would turn Medicare, now a fee-for-service program, into a program that subsidizes private health insurance. "The rest of us have got ample time to try and plan our lives so that we can adjust to reality here when you look at the numbers. Again the math doesn't lie."
Medicare's trustees said earlier this year that the program that covers hospital stays would be exhausted in 2024, five years earlier than previously thought. When that occurs, the program wouldn't have enough money flowing in to pay all of the expected benefits.
Asked whether voters would push back against any of the federal spending cuts that Republicans have won so far, Mr. Cantor was silent before responding to a different question about whether voters would see spending cuts as the government doing something.
"Initially, yes," Mr. Cantor said. "Most people that I talk to in my district in Virginia or throughout the country realize that Washington is spending money that it doesn't have. They'll tell me: Why are you wasting my taxpayer dollars the way that you are in Washington?"
Democrats see it differently. After a Democrat won a seat earlier this year in a western New York district long held by Republicans, Democrats attributed the victory to the unpopularity of the Republican Medicare overhaul plan.
Rep. Kathy Hochul (D., N.Y.) had made her opposition to the Medicare overhaul her campaign's centerpiece. After her victory, Democratic leaders vowed to use the issue in the next elections.