Sunday, May 1, 2011

Plutocracy in Action: Despite Polls, GOP Forges Ahead With Medicare-Busting

In a nation that's supposed to be a democracy, 78% would seem like a fairly major majority. After all, what big league ballplayer would want his batting average stuck around .220? Yet, Republicans figure 22% represents a majority, and are surging forward with their plot to dismantle Medicare, hand the Medicare money to their well-heeled insurance company cronies, and pawn off future seniors with coupons that won't cover a third of their health care costs.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll revealed 78% of Americans oppose cutting Medicare to help balance the federal budget. Nevertheless, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), architect of the GOP scheme to gut Medicare while handing the richest Americans another 10% tax break, said his constituents were "Overwhelmingly supportive" of his budget plot.

"Oh, they are overwhelmingly supportive. Have you actually attended these meetings?" Ryan crowed. "The crowds are overwhelmingly supportive."  During the Congress' spring break, Ryan had been booed at town hall meetings, and once had to be escorted by police to avoid hostile demonstrators.

In drawing his conclusion, it was not known whether it was because Ryan had keep his eyes closed with his fingers in his ears, or if the 22% approving gutting Medicare was the only constituency Ryan cared about.

Ryan's staff quickly highlighted a standing ovation at one town hall meeting as proof of Ryan's tsunami of support. It was not immediately known whether they'd thanked their parents for attending.

The same WaPo/ABC News poll found 72% approved raising taxes on Americans making $250,000 or more, as President Barack Obama had proposed.

This polling found 84% of Americans opposed converting Medicare to a voucher program. Ryan's scheme would nix Medicare for folks under 55. When they reach retirement, instead of getting Medicare, which pays doctors and hospitals for services provided to seniors, they would get vouchers they could use toward the purchase of private insurance. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures by 2030, those coupons, probably glossy affairs featuring Paul Ryan's smiling mug, would only cover 32% of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses. Rich people would love them. They were going to pay cash at exclusive hospital resorts anyway, so a 30% off coupon for nips and tucks and implants and nefarious secret organ and body fluid transfers from screaming kidnapped 12-year-olds sounds pretty good.

For the rest of Americans, having to pay 68% of health care costs out of pocket sounds pretty much like selling your house, emptying your bank account, then, when the money runs out, dying horribly and miserably as anguished loved ones look on helplessly.

You can see why 22% of Americans are "overwhelmingly supportive" of Ryan's plan. That proportion's just about the combined total of the ultra-rich, wannabes and toadies, and brain-sucking zombie vampires.

Republicans, the party of the ultra-rich, wannabes and toadies, and brain-sucking zombie vampires, are lining up squarely behind Ryan. Except Susan Collins (R-ME), who draws the line at brain-sucking zombie vampires.

While 72% support higher taxes on the rich, approval for Obama's handling of the economy remained only plurality-ish. This may be an indication that Americans want the rich to pay more than just the amount repealing the Bush-era tax cuts, as Obama proposed, would yield. Americans would be right on that score. The rich need to pay much more to balance the federal budget, which is out of whack primarily because they've been dodging paying their fair share for thirty years and have accumulated a truly overwhelming proportion of America's wealth. 20% of Americans own 84% of all the wealth in the country.

Ryan must mean his overwhelming support is in the form of the dollars his well-heeled overlords can wield.

What America really needs is the kind of progressive income tax schedule that shifts the burden of running the nation from the poorest 80% of Americans, the bottom half of which only splits a mere three-tenths of one per cent of the nation's wealth to begin with, to the top tiers where all the money is (see sidebar).

Lacking a progressive income tax, seeing how the richest 400 Americans have as much as the lowest half of Americans, perhaps we should put those 400 folks on a new reality show, Survivor Billionaires. Every week, Americans could vote somebody off the island (or, actually, onto an island, which would be barren, icy, and surrounded by sharks) and the nation could take over all their wealth, since they stole it from us in tax giveaways, leveraged buyouts, asset liquidations, payroll downsizing, off-shoring, outsourcing, and all manner of funny money Wall Street accounting schemes.

That way, Americans could get to fire Donald Trump, instead of the other way around.

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