As I write this, the Democrats are salivating over the prospect of victory in the special election in New York's 26th Congressional district, which takes place May 24. The vote in this traditionally Republican district has been splitby a self-proclaimed "Tea Party" candidate, but the Democrats and their MainStream Media allies are portraying the race as a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed cuts in Medicare.
And maybe it is. When Newt Gingrich criticized Ryan's proposals on Meet The Press, he incurred almost universal wrath from the GOP and the Establishment Conservative punditocracy. Characteristically, Gingrich promptly flip-flopped and apologized to Ryan, although it remains to be seen whether he will recover from this beating within his own party. However, it is clear that cutting Medicare benefits is now a mandatory stance in the Republican Party.
This is quite different from just a couple of years ago. Thus at a Town Hall meeting in 2009, an elderly man told soon to-be-ousted Republican Congressman Bob Inglis to "keep your government hands off my Medicare." The Democrats and the MSM jumped onto this comment by a concerned citizen in order to show that Republicans and the Tea Party were both stupid and not really motivated by concerns over size of government.
The line appeared in dozens of New York Times articles. It even made it into Marvel Comics, whose now-anti American Captain America and his black friend infiltrated a Tea Party Group holding "no government in my Medicare" signs.
President Obama appeared before the AARP and read what he purported to be a letter from an elderly woman saying"'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare." [Obama Pokes Fun At 'Don't Touch My Medicare' People, by Rachel Sladja, Talking Points Memo, July 28, 2009]
The Yale Book of Quotations selected it as the quote of the year, in the words of editor Fred Shapiro' because it "represents…theextremism, or the confusion, of our political times."
Significantly, Shapiro also chose Rep. Joe Wilson's (completely truthful) interjection "You Lie", in response to Obama's lie that hisObamacare legislation would not cover illegal aliens, as the fourth-most "notable quotation" of 2004. ['You Lie,' 'Hands Off' Among Year's Top Quotes, All Things Considered, NPR,December 30, 2009]
But whether the MSM liked it or not, concern about Medicare was indeed an important factor in the backlash against Democrats in the 2010 mid-term election. And, taken together, these two quotes reveal an important truth: Obamacare was not just an increase in the size and power of government—it was also an interracial wealth transfer program. The government's hands indeed were on Medicare—to transfer the resources from, basically, white Republicans tominority Democrats.
After Joe Wilson's Tourette's-style truth outburst, black columnist Rich Benjamin argued that
"Race—that is, 30 years of government-supported desegregation and the sharp increase of brown immigration—is not incidental to the public's cynicism, disconnection and unwillingness to support the public sector, meaning the goods, services and places that belong to 'we the people.' That's especially true when we talk about healthcare."
Strike out the word "allegedly" and Benjamin is spot on. [Inside the mind of Joe Wilson, Salon, September 11, 2009]
Obamacare cut funding from programs that overwhelmingly benefit older white people who have worked their whole life and paid into the system, in order to fund programs that overwhelmingly benefit minorities, many of whom never worked in their life, includingimmigrants and illegal aliens.
Specifically, it cut Medicare, a program that provides health insurance Americans over 65 who have paid into the system with their payroll taxes, to pay for various programs to help the uninsured and to increase funding for Children's Health Insurance Program [CHIP] and Medicaid— a means-tested program that gives insurance and other health coverage to low income earners.
Whites make up 83% of Medicare users. But less than half of the uninsured population is white (and an estimated 22% is immigrant). Only 12% of whites are uninsured compared to over 20% of blacks and one third of Hispanics. Whites only make up 43% of Medicaid users, with enrollment rates at 11% compared to 27% enrollment rate for blacks and at 28% for Hispanics.
These disparities partly reflect the demographics of the country. As we are incessantly told, the white population is on average older than the minorities. But it also reflects the Politically Incorrectfact that whites are more likely to have jobs and saved up enough money to buy private insurance in their old age.
Not surprisingly, popular support for the different health programs is correlated with the demographics of those who used it:
Rasmussen polled Americans about the Obamacare bill shortly before its passage, asking about eight aspects of the plan. The cuts to Medicare were opposed 56%-33% by likely voters, including 62% of Whites, and 71% of Republicans. The opposition to Medicare cuts was greater than all the other features in the bill—including increasing Medicaid, raising taxes on expensive plans, requiring employers to cover the uninsured, the individual mandate, and requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.
But a plurality of blacks (42%-36%) favored Medicare cuts. And 92% of blacks supported increasing Medicaid and other subsidies to the poor.
Hispanics were not listed as a group, but "Other", which includes Asians and Hispanics, supported the cuts 55%-32%. And 88% supported the increases in Medicaid. [56% Oppose Medicare Cuts in Health Care Proposal, Rasmussen Reports, March 19, 2010 (crosstabs section)]
Nevertheless, a year later, after the Tea Partiers sent the Democrats packing, the Republicans in Congress have decided to place their bets on Paul Ryan's budget plan to cut Medicare spending.
But any GOP operatives who thought opposition was to Obamacare translated into support for libertarian healthcare policies were quickly corrected.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll asking "Would you support or oppose - cutting the growth of spending on Medicare benefits, which is the government program which pays for health care for the elderly? ," found that 75% of all American voters, including 65% of Republicans, oppose the proposal.
When asked to choose between "A) Medicare should remain as it is today, with a defined set of benefits for seniors. OR B) Medicare should be changed so that seniors who join Medicare in 2022 receive a fixed amount of money from the government each year that they can use to shop for their own private health insurance policy", Americans wanted it to remain the same, by a margin of 60%-34%.
A small plurality (49%-46%) of Republican voters support the changes, but white Independents and Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed the policy. [Ok For Romney, Huckabee But No Way For Palin, Trump, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, May 4, 2011]
This is utterly typical of the Beltway GOP. Thus they are also trying to shove through various free trade agreements, with Panama, Korea, and Columbia. Presumably these agreements are popular with K Street lobbyists. But this priority shows that the Beltway GOP is out of touch with the public—and with its own base.
Tea Party voters are not dogmatic libertarians. According to a CNBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, 61% of self identified Tea Party members believe Free Trade has hurt the US—just four percent lower than labor union members.
Which will not surprise anyone outside the world of Washington wonkery
In contrast, while the Republicans are busy alienating their white working and middle class base with libertarian policy wonkery, they have completely ignored the issue of immigration. But, as VDARE.com pointed out, on even the most controversial aspects of the immigration issue, such as ending birthright citizenship and supporting the Arizona law, Americans support hard-line policies by margins of 2-1. And Republican voters support them by margins of over 5-1 and 7-1 respectively.
Needless to say, Newt Gingrich's (temporary) defection on Medicare was not an attempt to cater to the views of the American people—he was just pandering to liberal orthodoxy. Thus he supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and increasing legal immigration—like Paul Ryan.
In fact, while all the presidential candidates are fighting over who will cut the most out of Medicare, not one has called for cuts in legal immigration. Indeed, none of the major candidates has even come out vocally in favor of Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law.
Of course, this is not to say that Medicare and entitlements do not need to be reformed. But the costs of legal and illegal immigrationare in the neighborhood of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, which is also significant. The GOP could make those popular cuts, use them to rally its base—and deal with the harder questions after it gets complete control of the government.
In the meantime—keep your government hands off my Medicare!
Ellison Lodge (email him) works on Capitol Hill.