Despite the continuing stalemate some good seems to be coming out of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. While we appear no closer to a bad deal it appears one thing is finally happening. Democrats are banding together against "compromise" with Republicans. Compromise that included the stealing of Medicare and Social Security from younger generations.
All along Republicans have insisted that asking the very wealthy to pay their fair share as the American people have called for hinges on a few things. Allowing them to destroy Social Security and Medicare from younger Americans who are paying into it now. They insist on raising the eligibility age and hence costing younger Americans tens of thousands of dollars when it is their turn for benefits they have paid for and earned.
Luckily Nancy Pelosi seems dead-set against that idea and Democrats seem to be drawing a line in the sand with her. She made her stance perfectly clear on CBS' This Morning:
We want what happens to be fair," she said in an interview on CBS's "This Morning" program. "And one of the things that we object to is raising the Medicare age."
Now granted this does not always mean a lot. Sometimes it seems as if Democrats are always willing to jump ship and side with Republicans on their terrible policy ideas. Indeed while Democrats usually have superior ideas they sometimes have a hard time mustering a spine to fight for them. This time it may be different:
A number of Democrats say this is neither a case of posturing by Pelosi nor a good-cop, bad-cop routine with President Obama to boost the White House's negotiating position. Instead, they see Pelosi's remarks as the reiteration of a core party principle that can't be compromised.
"I haven't heard any Democrat in our caucus say they're open to raising the eligibility age," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.
Which is good news. With Republican "leaders" having to contend with the zealots in their own caucus the Democratic minority in the House has been granted extra power in the final say. You see, many Republicans are going to vote against anything that asks the wealthy to pay their fair share meaning that Democratic votes will have to be mustered by the Prince of Orange John Boehner to pass a compromise in the House:
The Democrats' opposition could play a significant role in the fate of a fiscal-cliff package, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to lose dozens of his troops if the bill includes the tax-rate increases Obama is insisting upon. Without at least 218 Republicans, Pelosi and the minority would have to step in to make up the difference.
It's a dynamic that hasn't been lost on the Democrats, and they say they intend to use their leverage to prevent cuts to entitlement benefits.
And Democrats should stand firm. Raising the Medicare eligibility age would not save much as compared to the national debt and some of the savings would be offset by increased spending this move would create elsewhere in the budget. In fact all raising the eligibility age would do is cause more people to pay more money out of their own pocket for healthcare or join the ranks of the uninsured:
Medicare provides health insurance to almost everyone who is 65 or older. If the eligibility age was raised above 65, fewer people would be eligible for Medicare, and outlays for the program would decline relative to those projected under current law. CBO expects that most people affected by the change would obtain health insurance from other sources, primarily employers or other government programs, although some would have no health insurance. Federal spending on those other programs would increase, partially offsetting the Medicare savings. Many of the people who would otherwise have enrolled in Medicare would face higher premiums for health insurance, higher out-of-pocket costs for health care, or both.
CBO estimates that raising the MEA would reduce Medicare outlays, net of premiums and other offsetting receipts, by $148 billion from 2012 through 2021. By 2035, Medicare's net spending would be about 5 percent below what it otherwise would be-4.7 percent of GDP rather than 5.0 percent under current law. A rise in the MEA would cut by a larger percentage the number of years during which the average person would receive Medicare benefits, but the percentage reduction in outlays would be smaller because the people affected would be the youngest beneficiaries, who tend to be the healthiest and thus to require the least costly health care.
Another reason why Democrats should stand firm on this is simple. Americans want President Obama and the Democrats not only to raise taxes on the rich, but to block Republicans from stealing their Social Security and Medicare:
Public sentiment also strengthens the president's position on entitlements. A 64 percent majority says Obama can claim a mandate to protect Social Security from "substantial budget cuts" and 62 percent see a voter directive to prevent "fundamental change" in Medicare.
Democrats for once are finding themselves in a position of power. That is why it is important that they hold their ground and fight for the American people. We are being given an opportunity to do this. Let us hope that the Democratic line in the sand is not washed away by cowardice and compromise once again.
The American people expect us to fight for them this time around.