Shock: Congress Plots to Pay for Reviled TPP Deal by Raiding Medicare
It just doesn't get more cynical than this. Note that we're talking about a bipartisan trade deal, thanks to 14 Democratic senators led by Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer.
If Democrats fail to regain the Senate or put their next neo-liberal candidate in the White House — or both — they will have done it to themselves through cynical moves like this.
Michael Hiltzik, writing in the LA Times (my emphasis):
Medicare means many things to many people. To seniors, it's a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it's most needed.
To Congress, it's beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided.
That's the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government's Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.
The plan on Capitol Hill is to move the Trade Assistance Program expansion in tandem with fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, possibly as early as this week. We explained earlier the dangers of the fast-track approval of this immense and largely secret trade deal. But the linkage with the assistance program adds a new layer of political connivance: Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in Medicare, and the Obama White House, which should be howling in protest, has remained silent.
Let's pause. "Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in
Medicare" — and 14 pro-money Democrats voted for it in the Senate. The bill was dead without them.
Now Hiltzik again:
The Medicare raid was so stealthy that critics in Congress, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are just now gearing up to oppose it. "It was sort of buried" in the bill, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the caucus co-chair, told me Monday. The caucus expects to circulate a letter opposing the arrangement as soon as later this week. Ellison, an opponent of granting fast-track authority on the TPP, says the Medicare cut amounts to piling the costs of trade liberalization onto its victims.
"There will be fabulous wealth generated by the Trans-Pacific Partnership," he says. "The people who are hurt shouldn't have to pay for it with their jobs and then have inadequate Medicare when they get older."
If Fast Track passes in the House, it will need both Democrats and Republicans to do it. For just this maneuver alone — a move that will result in deaths — may each of them rot that does it. (My complete coverage of TPP and Fast Track is here.)