Let Them Have Coupons!
Have you ever been stranded somewhere and received a voucher from an airline? It probably helped a little, but still didn’t cover the cost of your food or hotel room. You were still stuck with the rest of the bill.
Well, that’s kind of how Mitt Romney and other Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) want to run the government — just give you a voucher, throw you to the private sector, and too bad if it’s not enough. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explains:
So what lies behind the Republican obsession with privatization and voucherization? Ideology, of course. It’s literally a fundamental article of faith in the GOP that the private sector is always better than the government, and no amount of evidence can shake that credo.
In fact, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don’t bother them much – Romney has pledged to reverse President Barack Obama‘s defense cuts, despite the fact that no such cuts have actually taken place. But successful programs like veterans’ health, Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs.
Let’s go through two of the worst examples of this extreme ideology in practice.
Vouchers for Veterans
On Veterans Day, Mitt Romney was speaking to a group of veterans in South Carolina. His big idea: give veterans vouchers and throw them to private insurance companies instead of relying the Veterans Administration, one of the most successful, efficient health care systems in America. ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky has the quote:
Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce some private-sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, that each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them, and then they can choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them,” said Romney. “Like what happens with schools in Florida, where people have a voucher that goes with them. Who knows?
Other than completely undermining the VA, there’s another big problem with this idea. Veterans hate it:
“The VFW doesn’t support privatization of veterans health care,” [VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry] told TPM. “This is an issue that seems to come around every election cycle.”
John McCain proposed a similar idea during his 2008 presidential campaign and it went over like a lead balloon:
AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars argued that while veterans should have access to private care, providing “rural veterans greater access to VA-sponsored care exclusively through private providers” would undermine the existing health care system. In their annual report, “The Independent Budget,” the groups argued:
– “The VA’s specialized health-care programs…would suffer irreparable impact by the loss of veterans from those programs.”
– “The VA’s medical and prosthetic research program…would lose focus and purpose were service-connected and other enrolled veterans no longer present in VA health care.”
– If veterans turned to private practice, “they would lose the many safeguards built into the VA system through its patient safety program, evidence-based medicine, electronic medical records and bar code medication administration,” resulting in “lower quality of care for those who deserve it most.”
Vouchers for Grandma Too
Here’s Mitt Romney explaining his Medicare plan — vouchers:
You have a program like Paul Ryan has proposed, which says we’re going to give people vouchers to let them choose among private plans. I think that idea has a good deal of merit.
That Paul Ryan plan that Romney references? That’s the one that ends Medicare and doubles out of pocket costs for seniors because it takes away their guaranteed benefits and replaces them with, you guessed it, a voucher to go buy private insurance. Romney of course fully endorsed the wildly unpopular Ryan plan earlier this year.
Romney’s own plan would keep traditional Medicare alongside his voucher plan, but that would still seriously undermine Medicare. And what does Paul Ryan think of Romney’s plan? He loves it:
It is fair to say that the often optimistic and cheery Ryan was downright effusive about the contents of the plan.
Ryan told me, “Look at what he put out! This is a great development. It shows that the elusive adult conversation is taking place, but all on one side.” He ticked off the proposals including block-granting, cutting the federal workforce and entitlement reform. He said, “This tracks perfectly with the House budget.”
As Paul Krugman writes, “Any Republican would, if elected president, set out to undermine precisely those government programs that work best.” Put another way, Republican 1 Percenters like Mitt Romney are most eager to go after the government programs that both work best and are most heavily depended upon by the other 99 Percent.
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