“Republicans begin the spending debate by saying any solution in which wealthier people (or entities) pay more taxes is off the table, and Democrats begin it by saying Social Security and Medicare are off the table,” writes Dave Weigel. He goes on to qualify that a bit, but this is a false equivalence that you hear a lot, and that isn’t true.
President Obama’s 2012 budget included a call for bipartisan negotiations on Social Security and a set of principles the administration says it will pursue in a deal. The White House’s subsequent debt proposal included a host of Medicare reforms, including one that lowered the program’s target growth rate and empowered the Independent Payment Advisory Board to design new insurance options in Medicare that paid more for treatments of proven value and less for treatments of less value.
You may think these go far enough, and you may think they don’t. But they undeniably put both Medicare and Social Security on the table. And it’s not like this is a new development: the Affordable Care Act included so many Medicare cuts and reforms that Republicans developed a “Health Care Bill of Rights for Seniors” and won the over-65 vote by 21 points. You can see one of the Medicare-focused campaign ads atop this post.
Paul Ryan would like to argue that only privatizing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid count as reform. But it’s just not true (and that’s putting aside the fact his plan plain wouldn’t work). The reality is that Democrats have proposed tax increases, spending cuts and entitlement reforms. You can argue that they don’t go far enough, but they’re all there. Republicans, as of yet, have not admitted the need for new taxes, or even the expiration of temporary tax cuts. There are individuals in both parties who have been relatively more or less responsible, but in general, one party has put everything on the table and the other hasn’t. That’s an important difference between their fiscal stances, and it shouldn’t be obscured.