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August 31, 2009

Medicare and Kratovil

For decades, Democrats have played on the insecurity of seniors by warning that Republicans would cut Social Security or other programs such as Medicare, the health insurance program for older Americans.

There is one simple reason why this scare tactic became a staple of Democratic campaigns: it works.

Now, as the battle over health care prepares to enter what could be a decisive phase this fall, Republicans are the ones who are warning senior voters about a dire threat to Medicare.

This role reversal, which began in earnest earlier this month with an op-ed by Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, makes ample political sense. National opinion polls show that seniors are among the biggest skeptics of the Democratic health care overhaul plan; they fear that they could lose benefits as a result.

A new attack ad against vulnerable Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland is part of the latest salvo in this crusade by Medicare's Republican protectors (historically, Republicans were less likely than Democrats to support Medicare; however, it was under Republican President George W. Bush that the program was most recently--and expensively--expanded by adding a drug benefit that substantially increased Medicare's long-term cost, which threatens to bankrupt the country if it isn't fixed).

Below is a link to the new attack ad, which targets the freshman congressman from Maryland during the final days of Congress' summer recess.

The ad buy is quite limited: it is running only on cable channels and only on the Eastern Shore, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is sponsoring it. (On the other hand, Kratovil is one of only 5 Democrats currently being targeted for a TV ad, as opposed to radio attack ads and robo-phone calls, even cheaper means of political attack, which are being used against 35 other Dems. Thus, the backhanded compliment of having getting whacked on video is a reflection of the Marylander's extreme vulnerability, in the eyes of Republican strategists).

Click here to watch the Republican attack ad against Kratovil, then come back to check out the facts.

Unsurprisingly, given the way both sides have played fast and loose with the facts of the admittedly complex health care debate, the ad's claim that Democrats would cut $500 billion from Medicare stretches the truth.

Neutral analysts consider that estimate an exaggeration, one that only looks at reductions and does not balance it with new spending on the program. On the other hand, there would be changes to Medicare benefits and costs, despite President Barack Obama's claims to the contrary.

Here's a good primer from Politifact, the award-winning fact-checking team.

For those who want to dig deeper, below are links to reports by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The first is the cost estimate on the House Democratic plan that has attracted the most fire from Republicans and other critics.

But that plan will be amended before it reaches the House floor, to fill many of the holes punched through it during the August recess.

One possible addition would be the inclusion of an independent advisory council that could recommend changes in Medicare that would produce savings and help make the program more financially sound over the long run.

Here is CBO's analysis of that proposal, plus other ideas that the agency would like Congress to consider.

Kratovil says he is opposed to the House bill (HR 3200) as currently written. He has not yet had an opportunity to vote on the measure.

Posted by Paul West at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele


Do you guys at the Sun do anything but defend Democrats?

To say that it is ok that Congressman voted for a flawed bill since it will be ammended is disingenous on your own part. No representative should vote for something if they don't agree with it. It should be fixed in the committees, not on the floor and not in back room deals.

Research has shown that when humans sense danger, they are genetically programmed to respond by focusing only on the perceived threat - shutting out all other information. This strategy worked well for man, when the danger was a hungry saber tooth tiger.

It doesn't work as well when the threat is from animals who work in a pack - like lions, wolves, and man. Packs use our fear to get us to take actions that make us easier to take down. Fear the wrong thing, and you end up as the main course.

We are in an age where unscrupulous political interests spend large sums of money trying to frighten us, to turn us into an unthinking mob, so that we will not notice what they are up to.

They are so skilled at this, that they have managed to make “cost effective health care for all” seem like a "danger" to those who would benefit the most!!! The only ones truly in danger, are those driving up the costs, reducing the quality of care, rationing care, and exploiting small businesses and individuals.

Michael Steele has been one of the loudest and most cynical voices attacking Health Care reform. He is a very effective salesman for the right. MD saw how skilled he was in 2006; but in time MD voters saw through the slick ads, the outrageous lies, and the fake publications. Let's hope that the American voters will spot the wolves in sheep's clothing too, before it’s too late.


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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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