Poll: Romney pulls even with Obama on Medicare

Remember when Democrats thought that Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan would be easy for them to tear down because of his reasonable proposal to reform Medicare? They’ve certainly tried to demagogue the issue — take, for example, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempt during the summer on CNN when she was educated by Wolf Biltzer.

But new polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the attacks haven’t worked, as Romney has narrowed the gap with President Obama on Medicare:

Mitt Romney has pulled even with President Obama when it comes to the question of whom voters trust on Medicare, according to a new poll.

October’s Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that in one month, Romney brought Obama’s lead on Medicare issues from 16 points down to 5, a gap that was not statistically significant in the poll.

Those figures represent the leanings of likely voters. Among seniors, Kaiser found that Romney leads Obama on Medicare by 5 points (48 percent to 43).
Kaiser found that 61 percent of likely voters and 72 percent of seniors oppose converting Medicare to a premium-support system. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have endorsed plans to partially privatize the program, giving future seniors a fixed dollar amount to buy coverage from traditional Medicare or on the private market.

Opposition to premium support is stable among non-seniors, though Kaiser cited other research that found opinion on the issue to be “quite malleable” and disposed to “persuasive messaging.”

‘Mediscare’ and the Pennsylvania Senate Race

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Back in August, Cato adjunct scholar Veronique de Rugy expressed concern about Republican campaign rhetoric on Medicare. As Republicans tell it, they want to “protect” and “strengthen” Medicare, whereas President Obama wants to “cut” and “weaken” it. Veronique thinks that the GOP’s “Mediscare” campaign could end up backfiring by making it harder to reform Medicare if Republicans succeed in taking control of Washington.

What I find irritating is that for all the standard platitudes from Republicans about getting federal spending under control, they’re simultaneously attacking Democrats for allegedly wanting to cut the budget’s big-ticket items like Medicare and military spending. Democrats might deserve it for decades of trying to scare the pants off of seniors, but the GOP’s adoption of their tactics is evidence in support of the view that the parties merely represent two sides of the same coin. (Don’t forget the last big expansion of entitlements came from the Republican-engineered addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare in 2004.)

That brings me to the Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate , where Republican challenger Tom Smith is trying to unseat Democrat Bob Casey. Smith is apparently in striking distance after months of running television ads attacking Casey. However, one particular ad being run by the Smith campaign is a good example of how low Republicans have sunk when it comes to Mediscaring:

Welfare spending rises significantly under Obama

Barack Obama

It goes without saying that George W. Bush was a big spender. In fact, he was the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who implemented the so-called “Great Society,” creating new entitlements — Medicare and Medicaid. Some Republicans argue that Bush’s spending spree was mostly for defense after 9/11, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

Bush increased spending on a variety of non-defense programs, raising non-defense discretionary spending by 5.4% during his eight years in office. In a study on welfare spending published earlier this year by the Cato Institute, Michael Tanner noted, “Federal welfare spending increased significantly under the Bush administration.” Democrats, playing the part of budget hawks, were complaining about budget deficits and the national debt. Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, said that Bush’s spending binge was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”

But while the the fiscal irresponsibility of Bush was outrageous, as Tanner explained, President Obama “has thrown money at anti-poverty programs at an unprecedented rate.” How quickly has welfare spending grown? According to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, welfare spending under President Obama has grown by 33%, a truly astounding number:

So much for a “balanced approach” to the budget deficit problem

You mad, bro?

Over the last few years, President Barack Obama has pushed a so-called “balanced approach” to the deal with the out-of-control budget deficits that have become the status quo in Washington over the last four years — totaling more than $5.5 trillion. But James Pethokoukis notes that President Obama’s approach to dealing with budget deficits relies overwhelmingly on increase revenues to the federal government (ie. taxes hikes) than it does on spending cuts:

Obama says his budget would achieve $4 trillion in new savings, just like Simpson-Bowles. But he includes a lot of stuff in that $4 trillion that S-B do not. As the Committee for  a Responsible Federal Budget points out:

To reach his $4.3 trillion in savings through 2021, the President’s budget counts $1.6 trillion (excluding interest) of  already-enacted savings. In addition, it includes two elements which the Fiscal Commission  assumed in its baseline – a drawdown of the wars ($740 billion through 2021) and the expiration of the upper-income tax cuts ($830 billion through 2021). If the Commission’s plan were scored the  same way as the President’s $4.3 trillion, we estimate it would save roughly $6.5 trillion through  2021.

Compared  to CRFB’s Realistic Baseline, we estimate that all new policies in the President’s budget would save nearly $2 trillion through 2022.

‘I Haven’t Raised Taxes’

Written by Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Why am I only hearing about President Obama’s gob-smacking “I haven’t raised taxes” claim today, and from Reason?

On CBS News’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night, President Obama said, “Taxes are lower on families than they’ve been probably in the last 50 years. So I haven’t raised taxes.”

As of Monday morning, neither the Washington Post’s Pinocchio-awarding Fact-Checker, nor the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s, nor the Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer-Prize-winning had risen to this opportunity…

Unbelievable. I just checked those websites, and they still haven’t.

Fortunately, Ira Stoll has. He leaves out a number of taxes President Obama has enacted, though, including raising the Medicare payroll tax on high-income earners, applying the Medicare payroll tax to non-payroll income for high-income earners, limiting the tax exclusion for flexible spending accounts, increasing the penalties on certain health savings account withdrawals, the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans…

Healthcare premiums up $2,370 since 2009

You mad, bro?

When the debate over health care “reform” started in 2009, President Barack Obama told Americans that more government in order to lower healthcare costs. If anything, Medicare has taught us that government involvement in healthcare has driven up the cost of private health insurance.

The logic behind Obama’s premise was, well, flawed, to say the least. Medicare Actuary Richard Foster has publicly doubted cost savings from ObamaCare and even the architect of his healthcare plan admitted that ObamaCare would do nothing to rein in costs.

But a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the last few years. You’re shocked, I’m sure:

During his first run for president, Barack Obama made one very specific promise to voters: He would cut health insurance premiums for families by $2,500, and do so in his first term.

But it turns out that family premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama’s vow, according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation employee health benefits survey.

Premiums for employer-provided family coverage rose $3,065 — 24% — from 2008 to 2012, the Kaiser survey found. Even if you start counting in 2009, premiums have climbed $2,370.

Here is a handy chart from Investor’s Business Daily showing the rise in premiums compared to Obama’s promise to magically lower premium costs:

insurance premiums on the rise

David Axelrod: Now is not the time to fix Social Security

David Axelrod

During an appearance last week on The Late Show, President Barack Obama told David Letterman that he wasn’t worried about the national debt in the short-term, but rather that the long-term challenges it presents are more concerning. In reality, both present and long-term budget issues are concerns.

As I explained last week, in just the next 25 years, our budget is going to grow to near nearly 36% of our economy and our debt will double in size to 200%, both far greater than in size than they are today. Much of that growth will come from entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which will consume 16.6% of gross domestic product by 2037.

While this is a certainly a great challenge for Congress, reforming entitlement programs is a must before they do damage to our future prosperity. Unfortunately, David Axelrod, who is the top adviser to President Obama’s campaign, has ruled out such as prospect:

During a discussion about the entitlement program on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Axelrod said entitlements must be dealt with “in a balanced way” but that the president wasn’t ready to have a discussion about specifics 43 days before the election between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

“I’ll tell you what, when you get elected to the United States Senate and sit at that table, we’ll have that discussion,” Axelrod told Mark Halperin when the Game Change author pushed Axelrod to be more specific.

National debt crosses $16 trillion threshold

National Debt Clock

As Democrats kicked off their convention yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina, the United States crossed an ominous threshold as the national debt clock crossed the $16 trillion mark — nearly $51,000 per citizen. While we should understand that the national debt and unfunded liabilities were already unsustainable over the long term, President Barack Obama has done little to rein them in.

During his term in office, President Obama has overseen four consecutive years of $1+ trillion budget deficits, adding some $5.375 trillion dollars to the national debt since during that time. This is the same man who slammed the deficits of George W. Bush on the campaign trail in 2008. Obama, then a U.S. Senator from Illinois, told supporters, “The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents — [Bush] added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child.” Obama said that this was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”

Paul Krugman, Won’t You Help Me Be a Better Person?

Paul Krugman

Written by Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

I find myself on the wrong side of the facts. Again. So says Paul Krugman:

Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid, which have less bureaucracy than private insurers (if you can’t believe this, you’ve never had to deal with an insurance company) and greater bargaining power, are better than the private sector at controlling costs.

I know this flies in the face of free-market dogma, but it’s just a fact.

And Krugman should know. As the following clip shows, this is a guy who always has the facts on his side:

Yes, that was me at the beginning of the clip. Krugman was selflessly trying to instill in me his respect for evidence and his command of the facts. For some reason, I have yet to absorb either.

Romney fights back on Medicare

Since being introduced as Mitt Romney’s running mate, President Barack Obama’s campaign and Democrats have been hammering Paul Ryan over his budget proposal. The narrative at the moment is that Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know.”

The suggestion is absurd. Ryan’s plan, which was crafted with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) doesn’t touch Medicare for anyone 55 and older and only creates a a voucher system as an option to going along with the traditional program.

Romney is hitting back at Obama’s campaign on Medicare, emphasizing cuts to the government-run healthcare program that will be made as a result of ObamaCare — cuts that would have been made under Ryan’s budget, which has been noted by Ezra Klein and Avik Roy. But, as Philip Klein explains, there are dangers to Romney’s campaign if they focus too much on the issue:

In the past several days, Romney has attempted to turn the tables on Obama by noting that his own national health care law — Obamacare — cut Medicare significantly.


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