Republicans look to privatize Medicare

By Sahil Kapur
Friday, January 28, 2011 8:47 EDT
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Medicare, Social Security ‘a cruel Ponzi scheme’: GOP conference chairman

WASHINGTON – House Republicans would support a plan to privatize Medicare in their annual budget, a member of the GOP leadership said.

Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the House Republican Conference Chairman and second-ranked GOP member of the budget committee, made the revelation during a panel discussion, according to the National Journal.

“Unless you deal with Medicare, unless you go into Medicaid, unless you deal with Social Security for future generations—programs that were a great comfort to my grandparents and parents are morphing into a cruel Ponzi scheme for my 8-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old son,” Hensarling said.

Social Security and Medicare are self-financed retirement security programs that taxpayers are required to pay into throughout their working lives.

The to-be-proposed GOP budget measure closely mirrors a provision in the high-profile “roadmap” put forth by budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would turn Medicare into a program of vouchers whose value gradually diminishes over time, and largely privatize Social Security.

“You can’t get there from here without those kinds of reforms,” Hensarling said, “so I expect it to be in the budget, I hope it’ll be in the budget, and I would certainly support it.”

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that 61 percent of the public opposes cutting Medicare, as opposed to just 38 percent in favor.

After regaining control of the House this month, top Republicans championed Ryan’s “roadmap,” which would end Social Security and Medicare in their present forms and eventually turn them over to the private sector.

Democratic leaders shot back with a forceful posture on the popular safety-net programs.

“Republicans are trying to carry out their plan to end Social Security and Medicare,” said Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “In public, Republicans are trying to distance themselves from this extreme plan because they know hard-working Americans don’t want to see Social Security and Medicare ended. But they should stop trying to hide the ball, and just come out and say what has become perfectly clear: that ending Social Security and Medicare is now the official position of the Republican Party.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, also chimed in.

“Anyone who doesn’t think privatization will mean severe cuts to Medicare benefits, I have a bridge I’d like to sell them,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Privatization will make the cuts previously proposed by either party look tame.”

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