A few days ago I found an AP story that I meant to write about, but didn't:
"President Bush is readying a new budget that would carve savings from Medicaid and other benefit programs, congressional aides and lobbyists say, but it is unclear if he will be able to push the plan through the Republican-run Congress.
White House officials are not saying what Bush's $2.5 trillion 2006 budget will propose saving from such programs, which comprise the biggest and fastest growing part.
But lobbyists and lawmakers' aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, say he will focus on Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income and disabled people. Medicaid costs are split between Washington and the states."
When I read this, I just didn't know what to think. I said to myself: wasn't George W. Bush supposed to be a compassionate conservative? Didn't he just tell us that "we know that in a culture that does not protect the most dependent, the handicapped, the elderly, the unloved, or simply inconvenient become increasingly vulnerable", and that to prevent this he was "working with members of the Congress to pass good, solid legislation that protects the vulnerable"? Is it protecting the vulnerable to cut health care for the poor and disabled? Imagine that you are trying to raise your kids on a minimum wage job. If you are, say, a maid at a motel, you probably don't have access to health insurance that's remotely affordable. If you or your kids get sick, what are you supposed to do? I tried to make sense of it all, but I couldn't; and I was so confused.
"Bush tried to get ministers and other leaders of the black community behind his agenda in an earlier private meeting that lasted more than an hour. Attendees said Bush told them his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would benefit blacks since they tend to die younger than whites and end up paying in more than they take out. Private accounts would be owned by workers and could be inherited by loved ones after death."
So it turns out that there's a good side to African-Americans' shorter life expectancy: their
private personal Social Security accounts won't have to last as long. Of course, this won't help if they have already converted their private personal accounts to annuities, but African-Americans are also disproportionately likely to die before they reach retirement age, and so proportionately more of them will be able to pass on their private personal accounts in their entirety to their heirs, without having had the chance to spend a single cent on themselves.
Here's where the cuts to Medicaid come in. Since African-Americans are more likely to be poor than other Americans, they are disproportionately represented among Medicaid enrollees. That means that by cutting Medicaid, President Bush will give even more of the benefits of reduced life expectancy to African-Americans. And unlike many of his proposals, this will give those benefits to the poor and disabled, who need them most. The result? More poor and disabled African-Americans will die before they have a chance to touch their
private personal Social Security accounts. This means that their children will inherit the money in those accounts, and will thereby become members of President Bush's ownership society. Of course, they will have to enter that society without their parents, but no one ever said that we could have ownership without sacrifice.
I feel so much better now.
(Note: to anyone who finds this excessively snarky, three points: (1) Yes, of course it is. (2) But I wasn't the one who had the clever idea of trying to sell the President's Social Security plan to African-Americans by citing their reduced life expectancy. This idea is grotesque, and it deserves to be made fun of. (3) You should have seen the earlier drafts. They were a lot funnier, but, I eventually decided, not in an entirely constructive way ;) )