FUSION JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010
We all wonder whether the Republicans have "learned their lesson." Well, they haven’t. Yes, certain individual Republicans are legitimate in their fiscally conservative beliefs, but the party is not. How do I know? Just look at how the party responded when the Democrats proposed their government health care debacle: they created a "Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights" that would guarantee seniors never lose their Medicare benefits. In case you’re keeping score, that’s opposing a multi-trillion dollar government takeover by guaranteeing another one.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said this plan would "ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care." If government run financial disasters actually did guarantee quality health care, why not cut out the middle man and create one for everyone? The reason we don’t do that, of course, is because Medicare doesn’t guarantee quality health care—but that didn’t stop Republicans from chasing short term political favor at the expense of their supposed principles.
Why did Republicans do this? The parties might not be able to understand their own logical failings, but they can read. Medicare is very popular. In fact, a Harris poll showed that 76 percent of people support Medicare, with support among Republicans actually higher than Democrats (80 percent to 78 percent).
The truth is that Americans don’t like big government programs…until they get them. Then they won’t give them up.
The Harris poll surveyed 14 different big government programs. Only two of them had less than 50 percent support: Foreign aid (40 percent) and immigration services (47 percent). Not coincidentally, most Americans don’t get anything out of these programs. What’s more perplexing is that, while 76 percent of people support Medicare, only 27 percent have a positive view of its performance. Social security has the same story: 76 percent support it, 27 percent think it works well.
When it comes to big government programs, we’re like toddlers grabbing our little sister’s toys even though we don’t really want them. We know these programs stink, but we still won’t give them up. To put our stupidity even more plainly: 3/4ths of our population supports a program that only 1/4th thinks is working. Brilliant.
We know Medicare has trillions of dollars of unpaid debt ahead of it, but that’s not the cause of a problem—that’s the effect. It’s an awfully designed and poorly targeted program and we all know it’s financially an unsustainable situation.
So, what to do? The only way to save Medicare is to turn it into a welfare program.
Let me explain. Put these government solutions in order from best to worst.
A) None (being the best): Everyone is responsible for themselves, charity fills in the gaps.
B) Everybody in, everybody out (next best): We all put something into it. We all get something out of it.
C) Welfare: Redistribution of wealth, yay!
I think most conservatives would say A is best, then B, then C. But I think we should train our brains to flip B and C. Yes, on the surface it seems like welfare, or "those with money, supporting those without it" is the most liberal idea here, but is it really?
Most conservatives actually believe in a social net, just one that is very, very close to the ground. While welfare is a bad word to conservatives, I think most believe in this concept at some level. An orphan with an incurable disease and the intelligence of Joy Behar should be helped in some way. They can’t help missing their mouth and sticking that fork in their cheek. We should be there for them.
The real enemy of small government is the "Everybody in, everybody out" debacle. It makes everyone dependent on government. Justifying giveaways to the poor is hard enough, how can we justify them to the rich?
The typical argument of most is "Hey! I paid in, I deserve my share!"
On the surface that makes some sense, but you’re not getting "your share." You’re getting far more than "your share." The average person takes out between two and three times what they put into Medicare. Plus, you don’t get "your share" from any other government program, why expect that now? Government shouldn’t be a mutual fund. It should be a last resort. If a rich person gets sufficiently low on money, then they can qualify for benefits.
The real issue is that, when people think they’re "getting something" from the government, they want to expand it. To actually achieve smaller government, we need to show people that they don’t "get anything" from these programs except a slow fiscal death. We should hate these programs. All of them should feel like going to a casino that offers no chance to win.
In theory, changing Medicare into a welfare program should be politically doable. Democrats would likely go along because they don’t want to help those evil rich people. Yet, it’s secretly right wing. Shhh. Perhaps a competent Republican party (if one existed) could get some good concessions for going along with it. And it would wipe out a good chunk of our future debt.
If these programs are going to exist, they should be a safety net for those who need it most, not a retirement plan for everyone. If you have the cash to pay for your own insurance, you should be doing it.
Today, we seem to think that Medicare and Social Security are designed to provide a cushion for retirement so that you can "relax in your golden years." I hate to break it to you, but the word "relax" doesn’t appear in the constitution. How could it? The people who wrote it went to the bathroom outside and had wooden teeth. It’s time we rethink our approach to all of these entitlements that are bleeding us to death. Unless, of course, the phrase "Condo in Florida" appears somewhere in the Federalist Papers. Maybe my copies are missing a page.
Send Stu hatemail at Stu@glennbeck.com