The Art of the Entitlement Deal

But that opportunity will come only after we get past the August 2 debt ceiling crisis because, just as Republicans won’t budge on taxes, Democrats won’t budge on Medicare cuts.

At least, that’s the expectation — unless Republicans are smart and don’t take the bait like in 1995/96 when President Bill Clinton played them like a fiddle during that far more benign budget stalemate.

It’s the same bait Democrats always offer; then Republicans end up losing come Election Day. And, while you may have the best policy vis-à-vis entitlement reform — or the seeds of it, you can’t set policy if you lose elections.

You can take it to the nearly bankrupt entitlement “lock box” that Democrats will refuse to budge on sacred promises made to seniors, as recent comments by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NM), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) illustrate. And if you think about it, unencumbered by conscience concerning who is going to pay the tab for unsustainable Medicare promises, why would they forfeit the electoral political gold their demagoguery delivers?

Minority Leader Pelosi is, in fact, gambling such demagoguery will win her back the House speakership. “Our three most important issues: Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” she recently told Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty.

So instead of insisting on the whole loaf, Republicans should be Reaganesque and accept a mutually agreed partial loaf on Medicare reform and “revenue enhancements” — provided these “enhancements” don’t limit job creation.

Then, after the immediate crisis passes, the GOP should look to “Medicaid transformation,” also contained in Ryan’s budget, as the better path to long-term entitlement reform.

This much-overlooked proposal provides a template for achieving across-the-board health care savings, by putting the patient — not government or insurance bureaucrats — in the driver’s seat and emphasizing good health, which reduces costs. That this plan also treats Medicaid recipients with real dignity for the first time in their lives by affording them first-class, instead of third-rate, health care is political gold that would make Kemp proud.

Additionally, its $1 trillion in program savings (averaging $20 billion per state) and $300 million in administrative saving is, well, huge!

Time will tell if Republicans, ignoring the Blamer-in-Chief’s tactic, will instead practice the “art of the deal.”