Cantor targets ‘safety net’

CANTOR TARGETS ‘SAFETY NET’…. On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about his party’s plans for Medicare and Medicaid. After describing some sort of means testing for benefits, Cantor made his perspective clear. (ThinkProgress has the video.)

CANTOR: We are in a situation where we got a safety net in place in this country for people who frankly don’t need one. We got to focus on making sure we got a safety net for those who actually need it.

WALLACE: Well, the Medicaid people — you’re going to cut that by $750 billion.

CANTOR: Well, the Medicaid reductions are off the baseline. And so, what we’re saying is allow states to have the flexibility to deal with their populations, their indigent populations and their health care needs the way they know how to deal with them. Not to impose some kind of mandate from a bureaucrat here in Washington.

WALLACE: I know. But you’re giving them less money to do it.

CANTOR: Well, in terms of the baseline, that is correct.

In theory, there’s nothing especially wrong with wanting to limit government benefits to those who “don’t need” a “safety net.” The problem is, Cantor’s priorities are entirely backwards.

When it comes to Medicaid beneficiaries, the problem has nothing to do with “bureaucrats,” and everything to do with giving states fewer resources, leading to less care. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Paul Van de Water recently explained who stands to lose the most from the GOP proposal: “The risks would likely be greatest for poor people with severe disabilities, who often need an extensive array of health services. Indeed, states would likely curtail benefits such as mental health services and therapies, many of which are critically needed by people with disabilities and children with special health care needs.”

As for Medicare, the House Republicans’ plan has nothing to do with reinforcing a safety net for “those who actually need it.” The GOP proposal eliminates Medicare as it exists, converting it into a privatized voucher system, with vouchers that won’t keep up with rising costs. It wouldn’t save any money, but it would transfer a greater burden onto the elderly.

Cantor’s sales pitch doesn’t make any sense, but it does reinforce the ideology that underscores the GOP agenda: Republicans seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families have had it too easy, for too long. It’s time to show these ne’er-do-wells some “tough love,” slashing their health benefits, and directing those funds where they belong — in the hands of millionaires and large corporations in the form of tax cuts.

And that’s one the things that rankles most about Cantor’s comments. He wants to eliminate Medicare and gut Medicaid, while trying to ensure “a safety net for those who actually need it.” But what Cantor neglects to mention is that the real beneficiaries of the Republican vision — those who stand to reap a windfall — are the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful.

Cantor and his party aren’t just taking away benefits from those who need them; they’re also taking those savings and redirecting them into tax breaks for millionaires and corporations.

“We got to focus on making sure we got a safety net for those who actually need it”? Remind us, Mr. Majority Leader, who would that be?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.