The attack on Medicare and Medicaid: morally bankrupt politics

The Republican’s 10-year budget proposal, introduced Tuesday by Representative Paul Ryan, revolves around privatizing Medicare and Medicaid. Rep. Ryan is publicly equating Medicaid with welfare, which for decades now has been painted as a bad thing. These programs provide care to the elderly, poor, and people with disabilities, acting as a health care safety net for the most vulnerable. Republicans are saying it’s these people who must pay for current financial struggles, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Democrats agree.

Some pundits have been quick to praise this proposal, with David Brooks calling it courageous, serious, and gutsy. Paul Krugman has compared pundit’s praise for the proposal to their group-think support for the erroneous case for the Iraq war.

Rep. Ryan and his cohorts want us to buy the line that privatizing and shrinking some of the last pieces of the decimated safety net, including undoing expansions of health care access created through health care reform, is necessary in the face of financial crisis. It’s what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism, the use of a challenging moment to through programs that benefit the rich and totally screw the rest of us. This is the default in US politics at the moment, from attacks on unions and shelter for homeless youth to threats to people with disabilities and now everyone who must depend on safety net health care.

Cutting and privatizing Medicare and Medicaid is not necessary. We should tax the rich. It’s not very complicated. The US is currently facing the greatest wealth disparity in the nation’s history, with the top 5% controlling 72% of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 80% controlling only 5%. The 400 people at the top have more wealth than the poorest half of all Americans. We currently have one of the lowest tax rates in history, yet Rep. Ryan’s proposal includes a tax break for the wealthy and tax hikes for the rest of us. FUBAR.

That’s our nation’s policy right now. Taxes are a dirty word. We’ve lost the notion that we pay into government so it can provide us necessary services, let alone the idea that the wealthiest in a capitalist society must give a little something back to support everyone else. Both major political parties are in the pockets of the super rich and corporations, who have lobbyists making sure they can avoid taxes as much as possible. Welfare has become a dirty word too. Providing for the welfare of those most in need is seen as a bad thing. We shouldn’t be fairly taxing those with exorbitant wealth or offering any sort of support for those with nothing.

During this current recession more and more people are falling into poverty every day. I recently lost my job and am currently leaning on the safety net, and much more so on the support of friends and loved ones. When this happens there is a lack of support and opportunity to escape, compounded of course by intersections of multiple systems of oppression like race, gender, age and ability.

There is something seriously wrong with the soul of the nation, something fundamentally broken in our political system when it basically exists to help consolidate wealth in the hands of the few instead of providing opportunity for the many. When our politics are about making sure a few people can hold on to that extra billion instead of making sure many people aren’t homeless, starving, without necessary medical care. I often feel powerless in the face of cruel, morally bereft politics right now. The vast majority of people are being hurt by moves like Rep. Ryan’s proposal, but we lack a voice in a political system that is supposed to represent us. US politics are broken right now, a tool in the hands of the wealthy few to wield against the many. Something desperately needs to change.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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