Sunday, April 24, 2011
Fareed Zakaria: Embodying the Clueless Pundit
In his recent TIME column (April 18, ‘How Will Obama Handle RyanCare’? ) columnist Fareed Zakaria shows he is as clueless as all other yapping pundits out there on the issue of “entitlements” and particularly Paul Ryan’s non-plan for “saving Medicare”. As I noted earlier, Ryan’s plan offers nothing except a plan to unparalleled poverty and likely premature death for many older Americans that don’t have the benefit of great wealth.
Zakaria grumps that “the liberal establishment is in full fury over Ryan’s plan”, but why shouldn’t they be when the corporate media establishment’s ignorant goons, PR- delirious loons and nattering austerity nabobs are hyping it as “courageous” or some other nonsense when it is nothing of the sort. Any such plan that clobbers the most vulnerable seniors and leaves the rich and military alone is not courageous, but patently cowardly and worse, a fraud. And anyone who backs it, or even praises it at some level minus full backing, has to be considered as supporting a fraud.
Zakaria is correct that “it is an odd proposal from a man who seems genuinely committed to a comprehensive solution to the U.S.’s fiscal crisis”, but the key word here should be “seemed”. It is transparent to anyone with more than air between the ears that Ryan is now committed more to Peter G. Peterson’s plans (from his book, On Borrowed Time)to eliminate the sickly and poor elderly and to pump more money into the pockets of the do nothing rich via extending the Bush tax cuts. For that, he ought to be at least called out as a liar and fraud, but center-right pundits like Zakaria refuse to do so.
He merely says: “Ryan’s plan makes magical assumptions about growth and revenues” when in fact the assumptions of ALL trickle down, supply side theories (from Arthur Laffer’s original one to economist Glen Hubbard’s most recent) are all frauds and lies. The Financial Times in a devastating analysis of the Bush tax cuts (9-15-10) showed NONE of them have worked! In the words of the FT's own conclusion: "The stated goal of cutting taxes to spur U.S. capital investment was not achieved.”. Worse, the majority of benefits flowed overseas! In the FT's own words: “an increasing proportion of the benefits of U.S. monetary and fiscal policy are leaking outside the U.S.”. And why not realize that Ryan's idiotic plan would make foreign speculators laugh even harder on the way to their banks! So why not call a spade a spade, or a fraud a fraud? How much longer must we sustain and support this twaddle perpetrated on us that “tax cuts create jobs and reduce deficits”?
Even Zakaria can’t see through the pretense of Ryan’s plan! He states that “the theory behind Ryan’s plan is that if individuals have to pay for their own health care they will shop carefully and drive down costs”.
But that’s bogus! The truth is they will not have health care, period, because NO insurer will provide it to anyone 67 or older! Thus, it isn’t a question of “shopping carefully” but rather being deprived of any access because the private insurance market will not compete for elder health care dollars without the government mandating they do. It simply won’t happen! They don’t do it now! Seniors are regularly denied in the private insurance markets (unless they can get access to COBRA) and this has been known since the late 90s when dozens of private plans then in Medicare simply quit the program allowing more than 900,000 elderly to be left in the lurch and having to retreat to standard Medicare. Had that not been there, they’d have been left with no health care at all, which is exactly what the intent of Ryan’s plan is.
Then Zakaria exposes himself as a clear imbecile as he writes:
“Why do I applaud the Ryan Plan? Because it is a serious effort to tackle entitlement programs”
Errr….no, sir, it is not serious! It is an effort to eliminate a key health program (which as it is demands significant costs from participants) and thus drive ailing seniors into a ditch. It can’t be serious if it does nothing to generate revenue, while delivering more than $2 trillion in extra tax cuts to the wealthiest as it unimaginably increases the burdens on the most vulnerable and weakest. It also does nothing about the military budget despite the fact it is eating up nearly 58 cents of every dollar spent and could easily be cut in two with no momentous loss of capability.
Zakaria barks that "if Democrats don’t like Ryan’s plan they should propose their own", and I already have (though I am a Democratic socialist, not a Democrat per se). My plan entails the following
1)Allowing Medicare to bargain for the lowest cost prescription drugs like the VA does. This would solve the huge problem of exploding drug costs at one time. Given these costs are rising by 9-14% a year they represent a huge drain on the national budget. By putting Medicare and the VA bargaining in the same class, I estimate that up to $50 billion a year can be saved. Much of this could be enabled simply by switching the Medicare options to generics. For example, substituting lovostatin for regular commercial statins like Zocor.
2) Eliminating finally all the Medicare Advantage plans! This in fact was one of Obama's early targets in the health reform wars, and he needs to come back to it. These plans were inserted into the parlous 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug law as a means to bleed standard Medicare down, and they have. They consume nearly $12 billion more per year (according to the Government Accounting Office) than standard Medicare, and those costs have directly pushed the program closer to insolvency. Worse, those receiving only the standard benefit have been forced to pay higher premiums to support those on the Advantage plans. Eliminating them would save $120- 140 billion over the next 10 years.
3) Reinstating the FICA tax (eliminated for two years as a result of the December Bush tax cut extension agreement) and when resumed, increase them to at least 8.4% to make up for the two years of lost revenue (which funds both Social security and Medicare). After two or three years, the regular 6.2% rate can be resumed.
4) Consider seriously raising the FICA limits for higher incomes levels, at least to $250,000 to help pay for both Social Security and Medicare shortfalls. People at the upper end need to bear in mind they're part of this country too and need to help out. Remind them of John F. Kennedy's famous quote: "If a nation cannot save the many who are poor, it will not be able to save the few who are rich"
5) Allow ALL the Bush tax cuts to peacefully expire next year no matter how much political pressure the Rs exert (and we know they will exert a lot). As it is, the giveaway in December added nearly $900 billion to the deficit that could have been totally avoided - i.e. by allowing both the middle class and higher income Bush tax cuts to finally expire. As Froma Harrop noted in her recent op-ed piece, merely allowing this expiry will halve the deficit. The rest of the problem can be solved via steps 1-4, with no ungodly strain on seniors living on fixed incomes.
Zakaria’s most clueless and delirious remark is left for last:
“Why has the care and feeding of America’s elderly become the only cause of American liberalism?”
Well, maybe, Mr. Zakaria, because as the Rev. Martin Luther King put it: “The degree of a nation’s compassion is measured by the manner in which it treats its elderly”
If you even had to ask that question, it has to mean you don’t have a solitary clue what compassion means. As The New York Times editorial put it:
“Huge numbers of Medicare beneficiaries live on modest incomes and are already struggling to pay medical bills that Medicare does not fully cover. We should not force them into private health plans that would charge them a lot more or provide much skimpier benefits”
Or, more realistically,….NO benefits at all!