The Republican Study Committee, which consist of more than 100 conservative members of Congress headed by Georgia’s Tom Price, have set forth a slew of proposals on health care which are sure to be used by members on the stump in 2010. The most important of these proposals concern Medicare, which the Right long has viewed as a foot in the door to socialism. At least two of the RSC committee proposals provide seniors the right to “opt out” of the program entirely. What’s more, old folks could actually get back the money they may have paid into Medicare to date.
Marsha Blackburn’s bill sets up one opt out provision. She is a conservative Republican from Tennessee who runs on low taxe and strengthening the border with fences, and she has has signed on to birther legislation aimed at appeasing the GOP, rightwing which claims Obama isn’t really a US citizen. (The bill Blackburn backs requires every presidential candidate to put up his or her birth certificate for public scrutiny before running.)
Ripping into Medicare is not only another step down the conservative path towards less government, but in this instance, opens the Medicare system to a pillaging by the insurance industry in the form of high-cost Medicare Advantage plans, along with whatever other schemes the industry can dream up. Clearly, the idea is that Medicare recipients could use the money they “get back” from Medicare to buy insurance on the private market. Medicare Part D, the presciption drug program, is already run through private insurance companies, which skim profits off premiums and co-pays, and allows drug companies to charge high prices at government expense. Serious cost efficiency would mean kicking the insurance companies out of Medicare, and having the government negotiate drug prices. Neither is likely to happen under the current health reform–or any time soon.
Exactly what is the Republican Study Committee? Organized by the late Paul Weyrich—himself one of the founders of the New Right– in 1973 as an antidote to the perceived leftish tendencies of the then dominant middle-of-the-road Republican Party, its first chair was Phil Crane, best known as a golden conservative orator who got creamed in his race for presidency against Reagan in 1980. Past members included Tom DeLay and Dan Quayle. In today’s world the RSC is all about balancing budgets, cutting taxes, and diminishing the power of the central government. The Committee’s response to hurricane Katrina was to offer up “Operation Offset,” which proposed cuts of $100 billion to cover the cost of rebuilding New Orleans. According to one independent analysis, this would have meant reducing social welfare programs to the poor—the most vulnerable group in the hurricane—by 40 percent. This cynical strategy was aimed at robbing the poor (permanently) in the name of giving to the poor (temporarily and halfheartedly).
The fact that most of the RSC’s measures couldn’t get past the Bush administration is a measure of just how far to the right the RSC lies. And the fact that they are now taking aim at Medicare shows that the right will never rest until it destroys the only single-payer health care program this country has ever known.