At the intersection of candor, callousness, and conservatism

When President Obama criticizes the Republican plan to end Medicare, he has some pretty standard rhetoric.

“It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors,” Obama has said more than once. “It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck — you’re on your own.”

What’s interesting, though, is when congressional Republican effectively respond, “Damn straight.”

In general, GOP officials like to keep up a certain pretense. They’re not “ending” Medicare; they’re “saving” Medicare. They don’t want to screw over the elderly; they want to give seniors “choices.”

It’s so much more refreshing when Republicans just say what they believe.

Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn’t offer health benefits for retirees.

A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?

“The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees,” the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall told the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?'”

At the same event, when another constituent suggested the voucher may be inadequate in covering growing health care costs, Woodall suggested she leave the United States to go to one of the other industrialized countries that offer coverage for everyone.

This is important rhetoric. Woodall is obviously something of an extremist, but at least he’s presenting the Republican agenda in stark, cold terms. His remarks come at the intersection of candor, callousness, and conservatism — seniors who worked for companies that don’t offer benefits to retirees are out of luck. If they didn’t save enough to cover their own medical bills, they’ll just have to suffer or go to some other country.

The last thing Woodall wants to do is “save” Medicare. He prefers a system in which Medicare doesn’t exist and seniors fend for themselves.

I congratulate the right-wing congressman for being so straightforward in his presentation of the Republican agenda, and can only hope others in the GOP are as truthful and candid in their own rhetoric. Americans deserve a real debate about competing visions of the future, and Rob Woodall, as ridiculously conservative as he is, has presented an agenda the public deserves to consider.