The Obama Administration has a moral responsibility to block any and all spending cuts that are not good policy. And whatever raising the Medicare qualification age is, it is not good policy--nobody who hasn't been bought by the Republican Party thinks it's good policy, and many of those who have been bought draw the line at claiming that it is.
For the White House, the key to any deal is tax revenues — delivered at least partly through higher rates — and a long-term solution to the debt ceiling. Additionally, any big deal will have to include some stimulus, including an extension of unemployment insurance and either an extension of — or more likely, a replacement for — the payroll tax cut.
For Republicans, the key is some give on tax rates, as well as a few high-profile entitlement cuts, namely an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and chained-CPI….
When you drill down to the granular policy level, Republicans aren’t sure what Republicans want. Democrats complain that the Republican offers are bare of policy detail. They lay down targets — say, $600 billion in health savings — but say nothing about how those targets will be achieved. Republican staffers admit that they need more time to come up with specific cuts — and, for that matter, specific tax reforms….
This is important context for the role the Medicare eligibility age is playing in these discussions…. [I]t’s emerged, alongside chained-CPI, as the GOP’s top ask in the negotiations…. There’s no particular conservative — or even non-conservative — policy goal that raising the Medicare eligibility age advances. Raising the Medicare eligibility age doesn’t increase competition in Medicare…. It doesn’t reduce national health spending — actually… it increases it. It doesn’t force seniors to act as more discerning consumers of health care…. It doesn’t substantially pare back “the nation of takers”…. And it… really will hurt some seniors….
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the Medicare eligibility age as “a trophy that the Republicans want.” That’s exactly right. For Republicans, it’s a signal that they won something big… it at least proves they’re going in a direction Democrats hate…. Progressives have reacted to the prospect of an increase in the Medicare eligibility age with fury….
The cynic would say that the White House sees the fury of progressives as an inevitable byproduct of a deal…. The stimulus was larded with tax cuts and reduced from an already too-small $900 billion to less than $800 billion. The public option was dropped…. The Bush tax cuts were extended as part of the cost of getting more stimulus in 2011. In each case, the final agreement infuriated many on the left…
And let me note a place where Ezra goes off the rails:
The poorest seniors will be okay, thanks to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act — though that assumes that by the time the age increase phases in all states are participating in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or that the deal includes some protection for seniors in states that have rejected it….
There is no reason to think that all states will be participating in ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. There is no reason to think the deal will include sufficient protection for seniors in states that have rejected it. Medicaid is not Medicare. And only 60% of those eligible for Medicaid manage to successfully maneuver through the application process-that number will rise as ObamaCare requires states to streamline Medicaid applications, but it will not rise to 100%.