The Old-ification Of Conservatism

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JONATHAN CHAIT AUGUST 9, 2010

The Old-ification Of Conservatism

The Republican Party's most successful political move over the last year and a half has been to convince old people that health care reform has come at their expense. The party's gains since 2006 have overwhelmingly come amongst the oldest voters. Meanwhile, every age group approves of the Affordable Care Act except the already-enrolled-in-single-payer elderly, who hate it. They have imposed the traditional conservative paradigm -- Democrats taking hard-earned tax dollars away from the deserving middle class and giving it to the lazy poor -- onto health care. The irony that the "deserving" middle class victims are in fact beneficiaries of socialized medicine has been lost upon the public.

As an electoral strategy, this makes perfect sense. Older voters turn out in midterm elections at very high rates, while Obama-leaning groups like the young and minorities tend to come out only for exciting events like presidential elections. So the Republican insistence that any waste in Medicare must be plowed back into Medicare, while morally absurd and ideologically unrecognizable to pre-2009 conservatism, has a clear logic behind it. The funny thing is that you see even conservative intellectuals, or pseudo-intellectuals, taking up the Save Granny banner. Here's the Heritage Foundation:

Is Granny “disposable”? Some seniors may get that impression once Obamacare kicks in.

As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the new law cuts $200 billion from Medicare Advantage, a public-private “hybrid” of Medicare.  As a result, more than 11 million seniors will likely see their Medicare Advantage premiums rise significantly or their benefits noticeably lessened.  Either way, it will violate President Obama’s promise that all who liked their current coverage would be able to keep it under Obamacare.

But Obamacare giveth what it taketh away.  And the $200 billion it takes away from the seniors’ program will go to finance new entitlements for younger, healthier Americans.

Too bad for the oldsters. ...

Meanwhile, Congress should plow any “savings” it can find within Medicare (such as the $200 billion cut to Medicare Advantage) back into the program.  Cutting seniors’ benefits to create costly new entitlements for younger Americans may help President Obama “spread the wealth around,” but in the process it just hastens the nation’s journey down the road to fiscal disaster.

All the tropes are here. There's the hint of death panels. ("Is Granny 'disposable'?") The insistence that every penny of Medicare waste must remain in Medicare. And the claim that Obama's program is redistribution of wealth, when of course it is redistributing resources from one government program to another.

Conservatives used to frequently taunt liberals for defending a welfare state that primarily benefited the old and shorted the young. This was always a caricature. But now, out of Republican electoral expedience, conservatives are adopting a view even more extreme than the caricature.

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posted in: jonathan chait, wall street journal, medicare, republican party, pseudo, the heritage

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