Here's the opening gambit from the House GOP on the Medicare and Social Security bipartisan solutions called for by President Obama in his State of the Union.
WASHINGTON — Months after they hammered Democrats for cutting Medicare, House Republicans are debating whether to relaunch their quest to privatize the health program for seniors.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is testing support for his idea to replace Medicare with a fixed payment to buy a private medical plan from a menu of coverage options.
Party leaders will determine if the so-called voucher plan will be part of the budget Republicans put forward in the spring.
The National Journal reports this with a little more certainty: "The measure would be part of the House budget, which will be shaped next month. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the he expects Republicans to support the provision, which would require Medicare to give seniors an allotment of money to buy private coverage starting in 2021. The eligibility age would also be raised, from 65 to 69."
What digby said:
It's important to note one thing about this one, however. This is being done to position the Republicans for the looming "entitlement" battle. They will pretend to fight for this insane proposition and then reluctantly give it up in the "compromise." The Democrats, meanwhile, are floating a slight raise in the payroll cap or perhaps means testing of social security for which they too will fight until they are forced to give those positions up in the "compromise." And what will be left after both sides have given up their cherished desires?
You tell me. (And I'm sure you can see the problem here.) Whatever happens, the Democrats will undoubtedly tell us that the compromise saved the country all from crazy GOP privatization plans and we should be grateful for their stalwart defense....
Privatization of Social Security has been off the table ever since the crash and burn of the Bush attempt in 2005, and certainly since the stock market crash of 2008. Indeed, until the last couple of weeks, the only people who even mentioned it were tough talking Democrats who used it as a straw man to show how serious they were about protecting Social Security (and Paul Ryan.) But it's creeping back into the conversation for good reason. It's a very useful negotiating chip.
Social Security should be off the table entirely for the time being, judging by the negotiating ability we've seen thus far from the White House and Senate Dems. But this needs to be made clear nonetheless--avoiding privatization is not the benchmark for changes to Social Security or to Medicare. Any "solution" which involves slashing benefits--and that's pretty much the gamut from doing away with cost of living adjustments to raising the retirement age to means testing--will weaken the program and will be a loss, in terms of both politics and policy.