On Sunday, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) reiterated his call for restructuring entitlement programs like Medicare, highlighting the “very painful cuts” he has proposed as part of a package to avert the fiscal cliff. Corker 242-page plan calls for a Paul Ryan-like proposal to transform the guaranteed Medicare benefit into a voucher plan for beneficiaries.
Host David Gregory seemed to agree with Corker’s characterization and pressed fellow panelist Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to accept reforms that will shift health care costs to seniors in order to show that Democrats are “serious” about entitlements:
CORKER: Look, I laid out in great detail very painful cuts to Medicare. I just did it in a 242 page bill that I’ve shared with the White House [...]
GREGORY: Name some specific programs that ought to be cut that would cause pain in terms of the role of our government that Democrats are prepared to support.
McCASKILL: Well, I think you can see more cuts frankly and a lot of us voted for more cuts in the farm program…and defense. I spent a lot of times in the wings of the Pentagon. if you don’t think there’s more money to be cut in contracting at the pentagon, you don’t understand what has happened at the Pentagon. [...]
CORKER: David, as much as I love Claire, those are not the painful cuts that have to happen. We really have to look at much deeper reforms to the entitlements … I think the Speaker is frustrated right now because as you’ve mentioned, the White House keeps spiking the ball on tax increases for the wealthy. But has not yet been forthcoming on real entitlement reform. And without the two, there really is no deal.
Indeed, Republicans have dismissed President Obama’s opening offer of $600 billion in reforms and savings to health care and other government programs, insisting that they are not “painful” or “serious” enough to lower spending. The Democrats’ proposal identifies specific inefficiencies and waste from providers and drug manufacturers and asks wealthier seniors to pay more for health care. But Republicans — and some in the media — are only interested in “serious” plans that directly reduce benefits or substantially increase out of pocket spending for seniors and poor Americans who rely on Medicaid. The cuts are designed to shrink entitlement programs and consequently cause very real pain to the people who benefit from them.