By Robert Reich
(This article originally appeared in Robert Reich’s blog on Aug. 21, 2012)
David Brooks in Tuesday’s New York Times commits the standard error of pundits who want to appear neutral but know the Romney-Ryan plan would be a disaster for America. He asserts that Ryan makes a serious effort at entitlement reform. “If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.”
Ryan “reforms” Medicaid by destroying it – cutting the federal contribution by some $800 billion and then continuing the cuts after the first ten years until federal spending is a small fraction of what it is today, and handing it over to the states, which can’t possibly keep the program going.
Ryan “reforms” food stamps by slashing them – reducing the federal contribution by around $125 billion and then, beyond the first decade, essentially ending the program altogether.
He “reforms” Medicare by substituting vouchers that can’t possibly keep up with the rising costs of health care.
Originally he wanted to “reform” Social Security by turning it into private savings accounts whose value would rise or fall at the whim of the Wall Street casino. (Now he doesn’t suggest any reform of Social Security. )
You want real entitlement reform? President Obama has begun it. Rational people would make sure he gets a second term to:
Use the government’s huge bargaining clout in Medicare and Medicaid to push down drug costs and the costs of medical providers, and to shift from a fee-for-services system to a payments-for-healthy-outcomes system.
Then allow anyone of any age to join Medicare so all Americans can get affordable health care.
Fold food stamps and other programs for the poor into a single enlarged Earned Income Tax Credit — a monthly cash grant that’s inversely related to income.
Save Social Security by eliminating the ceiling on income subject to it. (Now, income over $110,100 isn’t touched.)
These are real reforms. Ryan isn’t an entitlement reformer. He’s an entitlement destroyer. And in an era of rampant economic insecurity, Ryan’s destruction would cause American families even greater hardship.
Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
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