By Frank Clemente, Campaign Manager, Americans for Tax Fairness
Medicare turns 48 today, but not everyone in Washington is offering congratulations. Some politicians are trying to undermine this extremely successful health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, even as they push for ever-more-generous tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy.
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan is a prime example. The plan he authored earlier this year would strip away Medicare’s guaranteed coverage and replace it with an inadequate voucher—shifting costs to seniors. Seniors would be forced to buy private insurance on the open market. Ryan would raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and eliminate the improved prescription drug and preventive care benefits created by health care reform.
Ryan’s plan would cut $356 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, he is proposing $5.7 trillion in tax cuts over the same period, the vast majority of which would flow to corporations and upper income households. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has calculated that taxpayers with incomes over a million dollars would enjoy almost half of all the savings, receiving on average an annual tax cut of $408,000.
Maintaining Medicare for another 48 years (and far beyond) starts by rejecting further slaphappy tax giveaways like Ryan proposes. If he really wants to raise around $350 billion over the next decade, he should consider a tiny Wall Street sales tax. A levy of just 3 cents on every $100 trade (.03 percent) would raise almost the same amount he wants to cut from Medicare.
As we wish Medicare many happy returns, let’s also wish for a return to sane tax and spending policy, one where we preserve vital services like Medicare while demanding corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.