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Saturday, December 10, 2016

First it was Social Security on the chopping block. Now, it’s Medicare.

The Huffington Post reports that, according to five sources from inside the debt ceiling negotiations, President Obama may consider raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 in the hope of gaining Republican support for tax revenue increases. The pitch drew parallels with Sens. Joe Lieberman and Tom Coburn’s proposed cuts to Medicare that would allegedly save $600 billion over the next 10 years.

At a press conference today, the president renewed his commitment to attaining the largest deficit reduction deal possible, which may involve reducing the federal government’s commitment to senior citizens, under the auspices of “both parties taking on their sacred cows.” Uncertainty about the future of key pillars of American social policy seems to be the new norm; last week, the President seemed to be open to Republican demands for Social Security cuts.

In regard to Medicare changes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the two-year increase would save $124.8 billion between 2014 and 2021 — a relatively small amount given the massive influx of baby boomers currently entering the system.

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein points out that even if the proposal goes through, the Affordable Care Act would theoretically provide subsidies to those seniors who are unable to obtain health insurance. (Of course, that’s if the program totally goes in effect — and works as well as Medicare.)

Bailing on such an important, popular, and central plank of the Democratic Party platform and philosophy might be justified if Republicans were willing to budge on major issues in the negotiations, but such cooperation seems totally absent from the talks. This past weekend, Republicans rejected a $4 trillion deal proposed by Obama because it involved repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and, a few weeks ago, they walked away from a similar but smaller $2 trillion deal. It seems that the give-and-take of the budget negotiations now involve Obama giving to Republicans, and Congress taking away from seniors.

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