Republicans’ pledge to never raise taxes is inviolable whereas the government’s pledge to provide retirees with health care will have to be broken at some point, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. And we’ll see evidence of this, he hinted, if and when the House of Representatives refuses to pass future deficit reduction legislation if it calls for bringing new tax revenue into the Treasury.
In a meeting with editors of the Wall Street Journal, Cantor said Americans must “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”
The Republican plan for dealing with the exploding cost of health care is to phase out Medicare and replace it with a system of subsidized private insurance for elderly Americans, starting when people currently 55 and under reach retirement age. “The rest of us have got ample time to try and plan our lives so that we can adjust to reality here when you look at the numbers,” Cantor said. “Again the math doesn’t lie.”
Democrats tend to favor Medicare reforms that enhance efficiency, and curtail ineffective health treatments — basically for the government, advised by experts, to ration health care rather than to have private insurance companies do it. Eventually, before health care costs overwhelm the budget, one of these two visions will prevail. The former is a much more radical change than the latter. But the government can buy itself some time if it decides to raise taxes. Cantor says that won’t happen as long as Republicans control the House — even if a powerful new deficit reduction committee reaches a bipartisan agreement that includes some new tax revenue.
“The House is not going to support an increase in taxes,” he said.
This post has been updated.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.