“Very Painful Cuts”

One of Election 2012’s major themes was an attempt at Republican Medicare jujitsu. Almost every member of the congressional party had voted, twice, for Paul Ryan’s budget. That budget included an unpopular plan to change Medicare into a “premium support” plan for future retirees – or, as Ryan liked to say, to “keep the promise of Medicare for future generations.” Republicans blunted attacks on their vote by literally getting their Medicare-loving mothers to vouch for them. Older retirees, you were fine! No need to worry!

Now that the election’s over, what do Republicans want to do to these retirees? They’re back on the operating table. Bob Corker’s talking about “very painful cuts” to the system. Nameless Republicans are about that specific:

Republicans have countered by arguing for a smaller down payment that must include immediate savings from Medicare and other entitlements. Republicans, using almost the mirror-image language of Mr. Obama, have said that they do not want to agree to specific tax increases and vague promises of future spending cuts.

I don’t hear any Republicans talking about eliminating the “doc fix,” a cost saving that would affect employers. So I assume we’re talking about the classic recipes of entitlement reform, like raising the retirement age. Back in 2011, when grand bargain hopes still rang across the land, Republicans like Mitch McConnell said that a crisis was the perfect/only time to engineer these cuts. If both parties do it, neither party takes all the blame. Similarly, if there’s a Medicare cut after all of those Republicans promised not to touch the program, they’ll look like liars while the Democrats will look even worse.