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Of Course Newt Gingrich Supported A Health Care Mandate

Mitt Romney continues to face all kinds of heat over his support for a health care mandate, in large part because he continues to defend it. But Sam Stein notes this week that disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Romney rival for the Republican presidential nomination, was just as ardent an advocate of the idea.

In his post-congressional life, Gingrich has been a vocal champion for mandated insurance coverage — the very provision of President Obama’s health care legislation that the Republican Party now decries as fundamentally unconstitutional.

This mandate was hardly some little-discussed aspect of Gingrich’s plan for health care reform. In the mid-2000s, he partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation’s health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo’s events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney’s Massachusetts law) but “some federal mandates” as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that “both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.”

Neera Tanden, an aide to Clinton at the time who went on to help craft President Obama’s law, said she couldn’t recall exact speeches, but “strongly” believed that the both Clinton and Gingrich backed the individual mandate. Either way, she added, “Gingrich has been known as a supporter” of the idea for some time.

A simple newspaper archive search bears this out.

Gingrich endorsed the individual health care mandate over and over again, in public remarks, in media interviews, and in policy proposals. Ironically, he even explained the importance of the mandate in a book entitled, “Winning the Future.” Gingrich didn’t just grudgingly go along with the measure as part of some kind of compromise; he actively touted it as a good idea.

And he was right.

But that was before President Obama decided he also agreed with the idea, at which point the mandate became poisonous in Republican circles.

The point to keep in mind, though, is that Gingrich’s support for the idea isn’t at all surprising. Indeed, it would have been odd if Gingrich didn’t endorse the mandate.

For those who’ve forgotten, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the ‘08 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.

In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.

During the fight over Obama’s reform proposal, Grassley told Fox News, of all outlets, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate” — and there was no pushback from party leaders. This isn’t ancient history; it was a year and a half ago.

Newt Gingrich touted the same idea? Well, sure, of course he did.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A “No New Taxes” Pledge Is A Death Trap For Seniors

This has to be one of the funniest political stories of recent weeks: On Tuesday, 42 freshmen Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging President Obama to stop Democrats from engaging in “Mediscare” tactics — that is, to stop saying that the Republican budget plan released early last month, which would end Medicare as we know it, is a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Now, you may recall that the people who signed that letter got their current jobs largely by engaging in “Mediscare” tactics of their own. And bear in mind that what Democrats are saying now is entirely true, while what Republicans were saying last year was completely false. Death panels!

Well, it’s time, said the signatories, to “wipe the slate clean.” How very convenient — and how very pathetic.

Anyway, the truth is that older Americans really should fear Republican budget ideas — and not just because of that plan to dismantle Medicare. Given the realities of the federal budget, a party insisting that tax increases of any kind are off the table — as John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says they are — is, necessarily, a party demanding savage cuts in programs that serve older Americans.

To explain why, let me answer a rhetorical question posed by Professor John Taylor of Stanford University in a recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal. He asked, “If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of G.D.P. in 2007” — that is, just before the Great Recession — “why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021?”

Mr. Taylor thought he was making the case for not increasing spending. But if you know anything about the federal budget, you know that there’s a very good answer to his question — an answer that clearly demonstrates just how extremist that no-tax-increase pledge really is. For here’s the quick-and-dirty summary of what the federal government does: It’s a giant insurance company, mainly serving older people, that also has an army.

The great bulk of federal spending that isn’t either defense-related or interest on the debt goes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The first two programs specifically serve seniors. And while Medicaid is often thought of as a poverty program, these days it’s largely about providing nursing care, with about two-thirds of its spending now going to the elderly and/or disabled. By my rough count, in 2007, seniors accounted, one way or another, for about half of federal spending.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, there will soon be a lot more seniors around because the baby boomers have started reaching retirement age.

Here are the numbers: In 2007, there were 20.9 Americans 65 and older for every 100 Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 — that is, the people of normal working age who essentially provide the tax base that supports federal spending. The Social Security Administration expects that number to rise to 27.5 by 2020, and 31.7 by 2025. That’s a lot more people relying on federal social insurance programs.

Nor is demography the whole story. Over the long term, health care spending has consistently grown faster than the economy, raising the costs of Medicare and Medicaid as a share of G.D.P. Cost-control measures — the very kind of measures Republicans demonized last year, with their cries of death panels — can help slow the rise, but few experts believe that we can avoid some “excess cost growth” over the next decade.

Between an aging population and rising health costs, then, preserving anything like the programs for seniors we now have will require a significant increase in spending on these programs as a percentage of G.D.P. And unless we offset that rise with drastic cuts in defense spending — which Republicans, needless to say, oppose — this means a substantial rise in overall spending, which we can afford only if taxes rise.

So when people like Mr. Boehner reject out of hand any increase in taxes, they are, in effect, declaring that they won’t preserve programs benefiting older Americans in anything like their current form. It’s just a matter of arithmetic.

Which brings me back to those Republican freshmen. Last year, older voters, who split their vote almost evenly between the parties in 2008, swung overwhelmingly to the G.O.P., as Republicans posed successfully as defenders of Medicare. Now Democrats are pointing out that the G.O.P., far from defending Medicare, is actually trying to dismantle the program. So you can see why those Republican freshmen are nervous.

But the Democrats aren’t engaging in scare tactics, they’re simply telling the truth. Policy details aside, the G.O.P.’s rigid anti-tax position also makes it, necessarily, the enemy of the senior-oriented programs that account for much of federal spending. And that’s something voters ought to know.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Death Panels, Democrats, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Health Care Costs, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Seniors, Social Security, Tax Increases, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deficits Still Don’t Matter To Republicans

Think there will eventually be a bipartisan deal to increase the public debt limit after an extended period of Kabuki Theater posturing?  Maybe it’s time to think again.

Ezra Klein really hits the nail on the head in describing the “negotiations” as they stand today:

The negotiation that we’re having, in theory, is how to cut the deficit in order to give politicians in both parties space to increase the debt limit. But if you look closely at the positions, that’s not really the negotiation we’re having. Republicans are negotiating not over the deficit, but over tax rates and the size of government. That’s why they’ve ruled revenue “off the table” as a way to reduce the deficit, and why they are calling for laws and even constitutional amendments that cap federal spending rather than attack deficits. Democrats, meanwhile, lack a similarly clear posture: most of them are negotiating to raise the debt ceiling, but a few are trying to survive in 2012, and a few more are actually trying to reduce the deficit, and meanwhile, the Obama administration just met with the Senate Democrats to ask them to please, please, stop laying down new negotiating markers every day.If we were really just negotiating over the deficit, this would be easy. The White House, the House Republicans, the House Progressives, the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans have all released deficit-reduction plans. There’s not only apparent unanimity on the goal, but a broad menu of approaches. We’d just take elements from each and call it a day. But if the Republicans are negotiating over their antipathy to taxes and their belief that government should be much smaller, that’s a much more ideological, and much tougher to resolve, dispute. The two parties don’t agree on that goal. And if the Democrats haven’t quite decided what their negotiating position is, save to survive this fight both economically and politically, that’s not necessarily going to make things easier, either. Negotiations are hard enough when both sides agree about the basic issue under contention. They’re almost impossible when they don’t.

It’s worth underlining that “deficits” and “debt” don’t in themselves mean any more to conservatives than they did when then-Vice President Dick Cheney said “deficits don’t matter” in 2002.  Every Republican “deficit reduction” proposal is keyed to specific spending cuts–without new revenues–and increasingly, to an arbitrary limit on spending as a percentage of GDP.  Even the version of a constitutional balanced budget amendment that Sen. Jim DeMint is insisting on as part of any debt limit deal would have a spending-as-percentage-of-GDP “cap” (at 18%, as compared to about 24% currently) that would force huge spending reductions (you can guess from where since GOPers typically consider defense spending as off-limits as taxes).

Today’s Republicans are simply using deficits as an excuse to revoke as much of the New Deal/Great Society tepid-welfare-state system as they can get away with.  And it’s really just a latter stage of the old conservative Starve-the-Beast strategy for deliberately manufacturing deficits in order to cut spending.  Democrats should point this out constantly, and not let Republicans get away with claiming they are only worried about debt and fiscal responsibility.

By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Dick Cheney, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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