Why “defund” ObamaCare but not Medicare or Social Security?

By Alex Gonzalez

The political spectacle of the government shutdown in Congress is more about who votes for who, and to whom those seeking to “defund” Obamacare want to appeal. If the so-called “defund conservatives” really want to cut government, and the bloated entitlements federal programs, why not attach Medicare and Social Security to the Continuing Resolution (CR) legislation?  If indeed this is about too much intrusive government on the rights of private citizens that leads to dependency, why not “defund” Medicare and Social Security, programs that consume 50% of our federal budget.      

According the the CBO, 70% of those Americans who can enrollee under ACA are between the ages of 18-29. The cost of ObamaCare has an estimated annual cost of $168 billion. So ACA adds another layer of bureaucracy at the cost of $168 billion to an already crippled healthcare system. But, “defunding” ObamaCare means not providing money for a program that is mostly amide at providing subsidies to young Americans–or their parents who will keep young Americans in their family plan until the age of 26–for enrolling in ACA.

Conversely, Medicare and Social Security also provides mandatory subsidies to older Americans based on age requirements, irrespective of income; yet Tea Partiers are not complaining about this government intrusion. Medicare covers most medical costs for the elderly. 

Similarly, under Medicaid, a program for the poor based entirely on income, 50% of its budget goes to poor seniors in nursing homes where they stay for treatments. But if you are a poor senior, you can enroll in what is called “dual eligibility.”  As a result, Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 8.3 million low-income seniors, nearly all of whom are also enrolled in Medicare

Medicaid also provides coverage to 3.7 million people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare. In total, 8.3 million people are “dually eligible” and enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare, composing more than 17% of all Medicaid enrollees. Individuals who are enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare, by federal statute, can be covered for both optional and mandatory categories.

The cost of Medicare and Social Security is about $1.7 trillion (50% of our federal budget). Overall, Americans pay only about 40% of the benefits they receive from Medicare and Social Security.

 As a result, there is structural big government  $2 trillion annual “ponzi scheme,” as Gov. Rick Perry called it,  that is bankrupting the nation; yet, “limited government” Tea Partiers in Congress don’t do anything about it. And they are not the only  “conservatives” wanting  to preserve this big government this scheme. 

For example,  Arlene Wohlgemuth, from the conservative Libertarian Texas public Policy Foundation  who also want to “defund“ ACA, but not Medicare and Social Security, argues that:

Medicare covers most medical costs for the elderly. But that’s not quite the case. Most seniors don’t realize that in addition to Medicare, they need to have either supplemental insurance or a lot of money in the bank. That’s because Medicare only covers about 60 percent of health care costs for the elderly, and it doesn’t cover large portions of what elderly people need most: nursing home care and hospital stays.

In reality the government covers up 70% of Medicare; and seniors older than 65 year of age can even have “dual eligibility” that is based on income and age. So  why there is opposition  from Ubber “limited government” conservatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Tea partiers  against ACA but not again Medicare and Social Security? Wohlgemuth acknowledges that Medicare is compulsory federal mandate, yet she never makes the argument to “defund” or reform the program. So why is that?  The answer is more political than real economic “Hayekian” libertarianism and conservative limited government.

Those preaching “defund” mantra comes from areas where Republican Tea Party voters oppose ObamaCare, but also oppose any cuts to Entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. More importantly, these Tea Party seniors are 65-years and older make 80% of Republican base in these districts. In addition, seniors over 65-year of age have 75% of voter turnout while young Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 have a 25% of voter turnout. And politicians know this. In Texas alone, a state with a high number of an aging population of  seniors enrolled in Medicare and Social Security, 74% of seniors over 65 vote, whereas young voters between the ages 18-24 have 25% of turnout. see graph below

Therefore, these Tea Party Republicans in Congress, supported by Tea Party activists who come out and vote, while wanting to stop funding for a program that will benefit 22 million of young Americans, want the keep the big programs for themselves–or the government resources–and they create this political mirage of limited government; and Tea Partiers in Congress know that the senior bloc matters in elections. Therefore, this “shutdown” spectacle in Congress is more about voter turnout, and about keeping program for those who vote, than real “limited government.   

If Ted Cruz wanted to be true to his “conservative” core values, he would tell Tea Party seniors, who make 80% of tea party base, to stop enrolling in Medicare and Social Security. Moreover, if Ted Cruz want to be honest with young people, he will tell young Republicans–as Paul Ryan does–that the they are been doped into paying for services they won’t be able to enjoy when they retire. 

But Ted Cruz, just like big-government “conservative” radio talk hosts like Limbaugh and Beck supporting them,  while they want young American to stay free from government (and with no health insurance), they want seniors who vote to continue to be under the big government dependency, Medicare and Social Security. 

If the Tea Party argument is that government must be “limited,” why it has to be limited only for young Americans who are paying into program they will never receive?

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics,  from San Francisco State University.
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