Solve the problems of the liberal welfare state with this one weird trick! Why wasn’t this the most important sentence in Obama’s 2013 SOTU–when he’s talking about Medicare?
We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. [E.A.]
In other words, he’s proposing “means-testing” Medicare–making the wealthiest recipients pay more. At least a bit. For a long time this idea was unacceptable to liberals, because (the theory went) it would undermine political support for the program. It’s still unacceptable to some. But not, apparently to Obama. Since House Speaker Boehner has also endorsed means-testing, you’d think it would actually happen, right? …
Maybe, maybe not. The main problem, I suspect, is that it’s too simple and easy and too non-ideological. Agreeing on means-testing now would deprive the parties of the opportunity to posture for months against unsustainable entitlements or heartless benefit cuts. The press wouldn’t get to report on those fights, and the cable channels wouldn’t get to use them to stoke ratings. It’s something Obama and Boehner agree on–where’s the drama in that? Common ground: Is that even news? (It’s not even “dog bites man.” It’s “dog and man get along!”) Lobbyists would have to find something else to lobby about to pay for their kids at Georgetown Day School. The whole DC economy would take a hit.
Plus, when the two parties manifestly agree on something, that often impedes its enactment–it’s so likely to pass that each party tries to attach more controversial pieces of policy, which then make it less likely to pass. (It becomes what legislators call a “Christmas tree.”) Or the parties try to add provisions that will cause the other party to balk and get blamed (something Republicans tried to do with welfare reform, for example)
If it does happen, it won’t happen quickly. Too obvious.