Why Medicare won’t go away.

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LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern American. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.

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UYGUR: That was President Lyndon Johnson on the day that he signed Medicare into law. Ever since then, right up to the present days, Republicans have been trying to kill it. In fact, the plan to block senior citizens from affordable health care began years before it even became law, with a former movie star leading the charge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We can write to our congressmen, to our senators, we do not want socialized medicine, if you don‘t this program, I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR: Talking points from all the way back then. The same talking points as always. Yes, that was then-private citizen Ronald Reagan recording a message against Medicare proposal back in 1961. Now, despite his efforts, Medicare became law on July 30th, 1965 with Democrats overwhelmingly voting for it and Republicans split just about 50/50 on it. But once Reagan became president, the Republicans saw their chance to kill Medicare again. This time, as part of the early ‘80s budget fights that just like now, dominated the news.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The cost of health care increasing and Reagan administration proposing cuts of several billion dollars, many people, especially the poor and the elderly, could face serious problems.

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UYGUR: Well, the Democrats fought back at that point and Medicare survived. Flash forward to the government shut down of the mid‘90s, the law was once again under attack from the republican revolution. Then House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave a speech on Medicare in which he said, quote, “We don‘t get rid of it in round one because we don‘t think that that is politically smart. We believe it is going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it, voluntarily.” That turned out to be, of course, not true, so once again, the Republicans failed and Medicare survived. Now, it‘s under attack again, as part of the 2012 budget from GOP Congressman Paul Ryan. His plan would dismantle Medicare and replace it with a system in which people use government vouchers to buy private insurance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, BUDGET COMMITTEE: The Democrats went a different direction in health care, they really believe in a government-run system and I think logic, proof, history shows you government-run health care doesn‘t work. We want to harness the power of patient choice.

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UYGUR: Even “The Wall Street Journal” admits, quote, “the plan would essentially end Medicare.” So there is no secret here. The Republicans have been trying to kill Medicare since before it began, we just showed you the tapes. The problem, well, the American people love it. A Kaiser poll from 2009 showed people on Medicare trust it much more than people with private insurance trust those companies. That was 68 percent to 48 percent. And last month‘s NBC poll shows three-quarters of Americans think it is unacceptable to cut Medicare in order to trim the deficit. Now this looks to be an obvious losing issue for the Republicans. The only way they can win is if the Democrats preemptively surrender. Come on, they wouldn‘t do that with three-quarters of the country behind them, would they? Are you sure?

All right. Joining me now is Congressman Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey democrat on the Budget Committee who was called Ryan‘s plan a quote, “Road to Ruin.” OK. It seems that you are not interested in surrendering, it appears that you would you like to fight for Medicare. Do I have that right, congressman?

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D), NEW JERSEY: I never take a back step, you know that, Cenk, and we are not going to take a back step on Medicare.

UYGUR: Now, congressman, you and I have been talking about these issues for a long time. You know my stance on this. So, you got to understand my skepticism. I have seen the Democrats give in time and time again over the last ten years, OK? Now, are you positive that the administration and the rest of the Democrats are going to hold and say, we are not going to give into this proposal on Medicare.

PASCRELL: The great majority of Democrats are going to vote no in any American, shape or form to privatize Medicare. Republicans tried this on Social Security, six years ago, President Bush failed, they know it‘s a failed policy. You notice they didn‘t even bring up Social Security in the 2012 budget which we‘re going to lay out tomorrow during our committee hearing. Now, they are talking about Medicare. And then, they‘re saying, here is the switch that they are trying to get us to think about. Then, they‘re saying it is only going to pertain to people under 55 years of age.

So, if you are over 55, your Medicare is safe. They don‘t understand the issue of Medicare. They don‘t understand how this was our greatest weapon against senior poverty. Many seniors are living on fixed income. These guys and gals don‘t get it and we are going to turn them back. So, the road map needs a GPS right now. They are stuck in the middle of the woods but they haven‘t decided which way to go yet.

UYGUR: Now, I know you said that you guys aren‘t going to go for private advertising and I believe that, but how about cuts to Medicare? Do you think the president is going to hold firm and say no cuts to Medicare?

PASCRELL: Hey, Cenk, here is the most insidious part of their entire proposal. There‘s $550 billion that we laid out in the health care reform act which these guys are out to set and destroy. They call this socialized medicine. They call this rationing of health care, and that is exactly what we have now, which we can no longer accept. The point being this $550 in savings, they assume it in their budget. So, as much as they want to kill health care, or Obama-care as they call it so affectionately, what they really want to do is take the money and run. They will stop at nothing and Republicans, you must understand, want not only to privatize Medicare but the next stop, they will try again on a stand-alone bill to privatize Social Security. This is not our way out of the budget morass. We got to have cuts. There is no two ways about it.

And the portions of the budget that we are, the president started us out. Tomorrow, we start a second chapter on the republican budget and you‘re going to hear a lot of response and a lot of kickback tomorrow. Hopefully folks will listen to watch what happens during the budget hearing tomorrow. So, those people who have amnesia about 2001 to 2008, Cenk, they are going to have an opportunity to get a real face value of what happened and the debt that we brought to bear between 2001 and 2008. So, they say we don‘t want to give debt to our kids, what the heck did they do? They didn‘t pay for two tax, major tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. They didn‘t pay for the two wars, they didn‘t pay for Medicare prescription drug reform. Who are they kidding?

UYGUR: All right. I‘m interested to see what happens tomorrow and I‘m definitely interested to see what happens throughout that fight. Congressman Bill Pascrell, thank you for joining us tonight.

PASCRELL: OK, Cenk.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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