So there you have it: every member of the Illinois Republican delegation to the House of Representatives is on board with turning Medicare into a voucher program by 2022, shifting more of the cost of the health care onto seniors. All of the Republican members of the House from Illinois approve of cutting the top federal income tax rate by another 10 percent. They're all ready for a vast restructuring of the Medicaid program, a move that will shift more responsibility for health care for the poor and disabled to the states, likely leading to further reductions in that program. Earlier today all members of the Illinois Republican delegation voted, in other words, for GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget resolution. The final tally in the House was 235-193. The budget plan will die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The House GOP's ostensible motivation in the Ryan budget plan is rolling back the federal deficit; it claims to save taxpayers $6 trillion. The deficit, in the end, is a debate about health care spending, which is growing rapidly, straining public budgets at all levels of government. That's where the GOP's positions on Medicare and Medicaid come in. Republican members of the House describe such programs in dire terms. "Medicare as we know it is a pipedream into perpetuity," Illinois' 6th District Rep. Peter Roskam said today on the House floor. "It's going broke."
Or not. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein recently wrote that under current federal law the deficit would, in relatively short order, come into balance provided the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire as scheduled, the Medicare doc fix -- details about that here -- is put into practice or repealed and paid for, and the Democrats' health care reform law is implemented, its spending targets reached, and the taxes it puts on the table are collected. The broader point here is that the federal deficit can be tackled without phasing out basic social safety net programs and giving the country's wealthiest earners yet another tax break.