This Feckless President

The President has laid out the most transparent political trap that I can imagine. From today’s New York Times:

Obama administration officials are offering to cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations to reduce the federal budget deficit, but the depth of the cuts depends on whether Republicans are willing to accept any increases in tax revenues.

First, let’s examine the politics of this proposal. The administration is offering to concede something that the Republicans have not sought, in exchange for something the Democrats dearly want. It is a win-win political proposition for the Democrats, allowing them to lend credibility to their throw-granny-off-a-cliff campaign ad. Meanwhile, the Democrats will say that they agreed to minimal Medicare cuts (literally “tens of billions”!!!) in exchange for trying to make the rich pay their “fair share” of taxes. If the Republicans do not laugh in Obama’s face at this proposal, they are utterly stupid and doomed to defeat.

Next, consider the economics of this. Where are these cuts going to come from? According to the Times:

Negotiators said they were seriously considering cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals for uncollectible patient debt and the training of doctors; steps to eliminate Medicare “overpayments” to nursing homes; a reduction in the federal share of some Medicaid spending; and new restrictions on states’ ability to finance Medicaid by imposing taxes on hospitals and other health care providers.

Translation into plain English: They propose cuts that are guaranteed to precipitate the sort of crisis in health-care financing that served as the rationale for Obamacare in the first place. When cuts in payments for hospitals’ expenses are made (and remember that “uncollectible patient debt” is partly a consequence of prior federal law), hospitals will have to charge more to their paying customers, which will of course set off a new round of “exorbitant cost increases” in health-care costs. When the states are forced to make cuts in their payments to doctors and hospitals, there will be a predictable decrease in the level of services available. Both of these developments will provide the basis for the easily forecastable next step on the Democrats’ long-planned path toward full socialization of medical care.

Shuffling the responsibility for payments from the U.S. Treasury to hospitals or the states does nothing to reduce the grotesque inefficiencies of our current system. It does nothing to avert a crisis; in fact, it accelerates the crisis. The only way to fix the system is to restore individuals’ incentives to pay for their own elective medical treatments, and for private insurers to negotiate prices effectively with those doctors and hospitals that want to be included on each insurer’s list of approved providers. That means, of course, implementing Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare reform.

Once again, this time on the most critical domestic policy issue we face, the President has opted for rank partisan posturing over responsible dialogue with those who disagree with him. He is either utterly foolish and irresponsible, or else he is completely dishonest about his real intentions regarding the future of health care.

Perhaps he is all those things.

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