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Friday, December 15, 2017

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Donald Trump ran as the champion of the “forgotten man,” the working class, those left behind, supposedly. And, because he knew that undermining overwhelmingly popular and necessary entitlements like Social Security was a no-go, he promised to leave them alone. “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I am not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” he declared.

Lie number .. . . 6,497? We’ve lost count.

As Paul Krugman points out in Friday’s column, the team Trump is assembling is gunning for entitlements. “The transition team’s point man on Social Security is a longtime advocate of privatization,” he writes, “and all indications are that the incoming administration is getting ready to kill Medicare, replacing it with vouchers that can be applied to the purchase of private insurance. Oh, and it’s also likely to raise the age of Medicare eligibility.”

If that sounds in any way like a good idea, Krugman just wants to make three itsy bitsy little points about it, the first of which is that it would be one of the most blatant and cynical violations of a campaign promise in history:

Some readers may recall George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security, in which he claimed a “mandate” from voters despite having run a campaign entirely focused on other issues. That was bad, but this is much worse — and not just because Mr. Trump lost the popular vote by a significant margin, making any claim of a mandate bizarre.

Candidate Trump ran on exactly the opposite position from the one President-elect Trump seems to be embracing, claiming to be an economic populist defending the (white) working class. Now he’s going to destroy a program that is crucial to that class?

Which brings me to the second point: While Medicare is an essential program for a great majority of Americans, it’s especially important for the white working-class voters who supported Mr. Trump most strongly. Partly that’s because Medicare beneficiaries are considerably whiter than the country as a whole, precisely because they’re older and reflect the demography of an earlier era.

Beyond that, think of what would happen if Medicare didn’t exist. Some older Americans would probably be able to retain health coverage by staying at jobs that come with such coverage. But this option would by and large be available only to those with extensive education: Labor force participation among seniors is strongly correlated with education, in part because the highly educated are healthier than the less educated, and in part because their jobs require less physical effort. Working-class seniors would be left stranded, unable to get the health care they needed.

Krugman’s last point is that it is a complete fabrication that anything needs to be done about Medicare at all. The authors of this particular lie are Paul Ryan and his ilk, who have perpetuated the fiction that there is a valid economic concern about the program. Reality check from Krugman: “Medicare is actually more efficient than private insurance, mainly because it doesn’t spend large sums on overhead and marketing, and, of course, it needn’t make room for profits.”

Of course, there is also the inconvenient truth, which Krugman has long been at pains to point out, that Obamacare has helped rein in the long-term rise in Medicare outlays.

Why do Republicans want to destroy successful government programs? Precisely because they are successful government programs, and they can’t have that. Krugman concludes with a note to the media. Do your job. He firmly believes that once voters know what is actually going on, they will never allow such destruction to happen.

With the inmates fully in charge of the asylum, the chance of a sanity outbreak just got a whole lot lower.

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