Stop the bipartisan assault on Medicare, support the People’s Budget

By Claudia Chaufan
OpEdNews, April 15, 2011

So, folks, what is the greatest danger affecting the nation?
You might think that it is a completely out-of-control military machinery, which has maimed or murdered millions of innocents throughout the world and made a mockery of our so-called American values. Or maybe it is the 8 million families thrown out of their homes over the last three years while bankers sit on big piles of cash and Wall Street gangsters are paid corporate bonuses at taxpayers’ expense. Yet another good candidate for “greatest danger to the nation” would be the 50 million uninsured, many of them lining up in health fairs throughout the country, such as that at the Oakland Coliseum this past week, to receive free medical care from organizations like Remote Area Medical, which conducts medical “expeditions” in the “Third World.”
But then, you would be wrong.
As President Obama announced in his Wednesday evening address, our Greatest Danger is the Federal Deficit. And he said this with a straight face, and to frantic applauses from many Very Important People, including many “progressives.”
Now, you would imagine that, in order to fight this Greatest Danger, the president has proposed to end wars, raise taxes on millionaires or billionaires, or eliminate the cancer of a health care system that spends at least a third of each health care dollar avoiding the sick. And that he’s proposed instead to replace it with a truly universal, comprehensive and high quality Medicare for All, supported by over half of the population and close to 60 percent of U.S. physicians, and possessing the power to reduce the deficit by half a trillion dollars in the first year alone.
But you would be wrong again. Instead, Obama is out to slash domestic spending, increase the military monster until it devours whatever good is left of this nation, and assign an unelected “commission” the power to “overhaul” (“dismantle” in Washington-speak) an American symbol of solidarity: Medicare, or what it’s left of it after years of encroaching privatization.
Granted, the Republican alternative is outright brutal: the latest star in Capitol Hill, Rep. Paul Ryan, has proposed to turn Medicare into an all but worthless voucher program that will send impoverished seniors to comparative-shop for the sort of policies that are leading an increasing number of Americans to bankruptcy when they need serious health care. And it launches an open war on the poor, turning Medicaid (health care for the poor) into confetti, and slashing the food stamps program, support for child care, the environment, and the rest of socially useful services other than the military.
So it is really not hard to score political points if you spend at least half an hour denouncing the Republicans’ plan, as Obama self-righteously did, because whatever you do will look good by comparison.
Yet if you set aside the hype and look at the details of Obama’s plan (or listen carefully to the candid comments offered to Fox News by White House political strategist David Plouffe), parts of the Republican plan for Medicare are already part of “Obamacare.” After all, Obamacare builds upon the Republican idea of a mandate to purchase commercial insurance, and the Medicare “improvements” it envisions will soon become a very real part of the New American Nightmare.
Should we be surprised? I don’t think so. After all, the president’s call to, yet again, “make sacrifices” and “learn to live within our means” is in line with last Saturday’s weekly Internet/radio address, in which Obama suggested that the proposed $38 billion slash in the federal budget was an instance of “cooperation” between “the two parties” to “invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history” -- and all in one and the same breath.
If you are still desperately trying to find a silver lining in Obama’s by now well-established Orwellian double-speak, get it over with: there is none.
So what to do?
First, we need to act quickly. Before John Boehner’s House Republicans succeed in ramming through this Friday their right-wing budget for 2012, which would destroy Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, we need to demand that legislators, if they have any decency left, vote for the “People’s Budget,” fought and won by the 80-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
In a nutshell, the CPC People’s Budget reduces the deficit by 2021 without devastating Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and targets the true drivers of the deficit: the Bush tax cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession. It restores the nation’s economic health by building roads and bridges, training more and better teachers, and supporting community colleges. Last, it ensures that the banks that wrecked our economy pay a modest financial responsibility fee, that exotic trading by Wall Street traders is taxed, and that oil companies making record profits from price gouging at the pump no longer receive taxpayer charity. And it taxes U.S. corporate income as it is earned, in much the same way working Americans are taxed.
There is no time to lose. Tell your representatives to vote for the CPC People’s Budget.
Claudia Chaufan, M.D., Ph.D., is assistant professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. She teaches sociology of health and medicine, sociology of power, public health, comparative health care systems and sociological theory. Dr. Chaufan is also vice president of Physicians for a National Health Program-California (