by Max Brantley
Republicans face a defining vote on Medicare. Will House Republicans vote for a budget plan that effectively privatizes Medicare (a phrasing that Republicans hate)? The idea is to end the single-payer model for health coverage for seniors (the model by which we should supply all medical care in the U.S.) and replace it with a government subsidy of private insurance plans where the first 15 percent of money is lost to insurance company expenses and profit. Such plans on a trial basis have been a failure.
Republicans see electoral peril in this vote. They should. But some of that depends on the effectiveness of the Democratic response. It will not be enough to just brand Republicans as Medicare killers, however accurate that will be. Democrats also must have a plan.
But it will be fun to watch Republican Reps. Steve Womack, Rick Crawford and Tim Griffin as they vote and sloganeer. A poor state with a lot of old folks ought to be difficult terrain for upending the most popular government program after Social Security. But 2010 saw a lot of Arkansans vote contrary to their interest, in part because of that Muslim Kenyan from the madrassa at the top of the ticket. Womack, of course, is solid for whatever soak-the-poor program the Republicans have to offer. (And the Ryan long-term plan naturally includes more deficit-building tax cuts for the rich.) That's how his district thinks. The 1st and 2nd should be a mite different. Should be.