That's Not What We Mean By "Classless Society"

A few things about the President's speech on fiscal policy last Wednesday. Now that I've calmed down enough to read it, though I remain ticked off at his tacky abuse of Paul Ryan -- inviting him to attend, putting him in the front row, and then delivering a sustained and nasty attack on him: calling his Roadmap plan unAmerican and ungenerous, a plan to throw grandmas from the train. See, when I say "classless society," I mean equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, religion or family circumstance. Some of us appear to be confused about the term.

Stylistically, the usual. The Sophomores always have to toss in their comments about "coming together" and "journeying." Listening to excerpts on Wednesday, I was struck by something I noted in the Libya speech and in that town hall at Gamesa a few weeks ago. He tripped over his words an awful lot. He didn't sound confident: on the contrary, hesitant and ill-at-ease in delivery, like a guy who either doesn't really believe what he's saying or is unsure how the audience will take it.

He remains Opposite President, co-opting the vocabulary of Lincoln & Reagan while pushing the policies of Marx & Engels. This time, however, the opposites were in the speech itself.
He says of Paul Ryan & his roadmap, within a minute:
This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.  Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan.  There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  And I don't think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.  That's not a vision of the America I know. 
And later, after laying out a scary vision in which the elderly, the handicapped and the poor are all out on the street for the benefit of Corporate Fat Cats he says:
even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country.  We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.
Except for being unserious, cowardly, un-American and cruel. Gee, thanks. (And of course the very next night Obama told a room full of operatives that Ryan is "not on the level.") I don't want to hear diddly about civility from this man.

On similar lines, there's a whole portion at the end of the speech about how important debate is in a Democracy. He's absolutely right about this, for example:
This larger debate that we’re having -- this larger debate about the size and the role of government -- it has been with us since our founding days.  And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one that we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and it gets more vigorous.  That’s not a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a good thing.  As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates that we can have. 
He goes on and on in this vein, and then closes on the note that we have to get past "petty squabbling" and bickering and "come together." The coming together comes only after a vigorous debate, which gets squelched by calling it bickering....and by accusing the other guy of being merely mean.

As others have pointed out, the President's claims about the Ryan plan are false. He says the Repubs:
want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs.  That’s not right.
 It isn't true, either. The main Dem talking point -- that Ryan pays for tax cuts for the rich by gutting Medicare for people under 55 today-- is baloney:

"This is nothing but scare tactics," Ryan said at an event hosted by the economics think tank e21 on Thursday. Ryan explained that his proposal to lower tax rates would not be paid for by cutting Medicare but rather by nixing loopholes and deductions in the tax code.
"What we're saying is keep tax revenues where they are," Ryan said. "We're not talking about cutting taxes. We're talking about keeping taxes where they are and cleaning up the tax code: getting rid of loopholes and deductions, which by the way are enjoyed by the top [tax] rate filers, the people in the top two brackets, and lowering tax rates. A flatter system, a fairer system, a simpler system, one that is more internationally competitive."
As has also been noted elsewhere, the President has stooped to the tactic he told his own party a year ago not to use:
[W]e’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that’s—the other party’s being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.
But bollix on all that. What really gets my goat is this particular man presuming to be a champion of Down Syndrome children and the elderly against cold-hearted, mean-spirited Republicans:
Who are these 50 million Americans?  Many are somebody’s grandparents -- may be one of yours -- who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid.  Many are poor children.  Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome.  Some of these kids with disabilities are -- the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care.  These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.  
Give me a break! This is the most pro-abortion President in history. His side's "treatment" for Down's Syndrome sufferers is to abort them in utero. And at the very moment he is attacking Paul Ryan for hurting Seniors, he is advocating saving money on health care by refusing them treatment!

Here's the White House Fact Sheet released in conjunction with this speech. It includes this little goal:
Bend the long-term cost curve by setting a more ambitious target of holding Medicare cost growth per beneficiary to GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent beginning in 2018, through strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
That would be "death panel" to you and me. Think I'm kidding? This will include:

  • The President’s framework will strengthen IPAB to act as a backstop to the other Medicare reforms by ensuring that Medicare spending growth does not outpace our ability to pay for it over the long run, while improving the program and keeping Medicare beneficiaries’ premium growth under control. Specifically, it would:
  • Set a new target of Medicare growth per beneficiary growing with GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent. This is consistent both with the reductions in projected Medicare spending since the Affordable Care Act was passed and the additional reforms the President is proposing.
  • Give IPAB additional tools to improve the quality of care while reducing costs, including allowing it to promote value-based benefit designs that promote proven services like prevention without shifting costs to seniors.
  • Give IPAB additional enforcement mechanisms such as an automatic sequester as a backstop for IPAB, Congress, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In other words, they are already talking about per-beneficiary caps on spending, rationing care, and allowing the HHS secretary to decide that some people are too old or sick to be worth being paid for.

Republicans are being mean to Grandma. They're going to let her have exactly what she's been promised if she's already old, but for those of us 55 and under, they're going to spread some sacrifice around so that the safety net doesn't tear apart under the strain of the weight it's carrying.  We on the other hand are nice, we're going to euthanize her!