The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


13 June 2012

Would Democrat Kim Gillan cut Medicare?

That’s the question her campaign website’s Supporting Our Seniors section on issues raises. I think the answer is: yes. Here’s what she says:

Kim Gillan believes that as a nation we owe the Greatest Generation more than just our gratitude. Kim is committed to upholding the promises we have made to Montana seniors by protecting Medicare.

Kim opposes the Ryan budget, which would end Medicare as we know it, make huge cuts in benefits, and shift those costs to seniors. She has said:

“You don’t have to look any further than the debate over the future of Medicare to see what’s wrong with Washington. The Ryan budget, which is supported by my Republican opponent, would end Medicare as we know it and break the very promises we have made to our seniors. Seniors who pay a lifetime into Medicare deserve the benefits they’ve earned. Instead of solving problems, some in Washington are attempting to dismantle Medicare in order to appease ideologues at the expense of our seniors. In Congress I will vote against legislation that opens the door to massive Medicare cuts, which will hurt our economy and punish our seniors. These tough times require serious leaders who will work to find pragmatic solutions to the challenges Montana families face.”

She promises to vote against "…legislation that opens the door to massive Medicare cuts." Why the "massive" qualifier? There can only be one reason: she might agree to so-called small cuts in Medicare.

But why? Medicare, a vital social insurance program, still isn’t good enough. Its benefits are parsimonious, especially for hospitalization, longer term care, and prescription medications. Seniors who can afford supplemental insurance need it to cover Medicare’s deficiencies. Seniors who cannot afford supplemental insurance probably will go bankrupt after a serious illness. Cutting what still is far from enough is cowardly and cruel. Why won’t Gillan promise to expand Medicare’s benefits?

And why doesn’t she support a single-payer health care system?

I’m glad she opposes the Ryan scheme. But that’s a no-brainer. And there’s a lot of room for mischief between the Ryan scheme and absolute opposition to cuts in Medicare benefits. Why is Gillan positioning herself in the room for mischief zone?

This situation appalls me, but it doesn’t surprise me. In 1997, Gillan voted for SB-390, the utility deregulation bill cooked up, mostly in secret, by Governor Racicot, Enron, and greed-crazed pilgrims worshiping at the shrine of self-regulating capitalism. Most Democratic legislators knew better, but Gillan drank the Kool-Aid™. Some years later she came to her senses, but by then the damage was done and Joe and Jill Montana were paying far more for electricity than necessary.

Why was she suckered into voting for deregulation? To some extent, I think, inexperience. She seems to have had a pre-disposition to believe the myth of the self-regulating market. And she may have had too much respect for, and awe of, the representatives of big business. Some Democrats, blue dogs all, are like that. Human nature changes slowly, especially in someone her age. She probably wouldn’t cut Medicare as much as Steve Daines would, so she gets my grudging vote in November, but cut it she damn well might, which is why I was among the seven of ten Democrats who marked their primary ballots for someone else.