Viewpoints: Playing chicken on entitlements; 'Getting serious' about mental illness; Hospital labs devastated by Sandy

Published on December 21, 2012 at 11:23 AM · No Comments

The New York Times: Playing Taxes Hold 'Em
This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we're going to get a grip on our nation's problems -; of which the budget deficit is a minor part -; the power of the G.O.P.'s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don't get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don't think that's going to happen in the next few days (Paul Krugman, 12/20). 

The Wall Street Journal: Teetering On The Cliff
Speaker John Boehner defaulted to Plan B as a last resort after weeks of failed negotiations with the White House. ... When Mr. Boehner finally cracked on raising rates, at an income threshold of $1 million, Mr. Obama still said no. ... Flush with victory, [Obama] could have at least made a gesture on entitlements. Instead, he has treated the talks as an extension of the election campaign, traveling around the country at rally-style events at which he berates Republicans for not accepting his terms of surrender. Grant gave Lee more at Appomattox (12/20).

The New York Times: Strangers In The Night
But down the road, Obama does have a problem and, for Republicans, a vulnerability. Even if the cliff talks go his way, Obama will still face a money shortage. Entitlement costs are rising. Revenues can't keep up. ... The Republican strategy should be obvious. Swallow hard and accept a deal. End the showdown era. ... Prepare a comprehensive tax and entitlement reform strategy for 2013. Call Obama's bluff on health care reform. In case Obamacare doesn't bend the cost curve, get Obama to agree to some automatic triggers -; plans that will kick in and bring down health care spending (David Brooks, 12/20).

The Washington Post: Making A 'B' Line To The Cliff
Boehner gave on both revenue (now $1 trillion) and rates (now letting rates rise for those earning more than $1 million). The White House gave on revenue, rates and entitlements. It reduced its revenue demand to $1.2 trillion and raised the sock-it-to-me, rate-rising level to $400,000, from $250,000. It agreed -; infuriating progressives -; to an entirely sensible change in the inflation measurement for calculating tax brackets and cost-of-living adjustments for benefit programs. The two sides were so close it makes you want to cry, although, in a sign of the trying times, they can't even agree on how close (Ruth Marcus, 12/20). 

Los Angeles Times: Medicare: A Plan B For Part D
[The Part D prescription drug program] enables seniors and the disabled to buy taxpayer-subsidized coverage for many of the most widely prescribed medicines. When it created the costly benefit in 2003, though, Congress provided no way to pay for the subsidies, which have cost more than $300 billion so far. Worse, it barred the government from negotiating with drug makers for better prices -; an extra gift to the pharmaceutical industry, which already stood to gain from the increased demand for its newly subsidized products. Now that policymakers are casting about for ways to save money on Medicare, they should allow it to take advantage of its market power (12/21). 
 
St. Louis Beacon: Don't Weaken Medicare
Medicare gives [my mother] control over her own health-care decisions. Unlike my own "private" health insurance, Medicare lets her pick from virtually every doctor and hospital in the country. That's the kind of choice she wants. ... When we all want the same thing, it just makes sense to provide it for everybody. That's exactly why we should just fix the problems with Medicare (end the deductibles and co-pays; correct the inadequate physician reimbursement, etc.) and provide it to all Americans, regardless of their age. ... Instead, our precious Medicare is under attack (Dr. Ed Weisbart, 12/21).

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