Medicare: Good! Government: Bad!

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I’ve always wondered about those enraged seniors who purportedly shouted “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”—an anecdote repeated endlessly during, and after, the 2010 midterm election. No doubt a few such people exist, but really—how many seniors don’t understand that Medicare is a government program?

Well, one lobbying group, apparently operating on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, clearly believes many remain confused—and they’re eager to exploit that confusion. I found in my mailbox over the weekend a flier featuring the faces of four angry elderly people (all white, oddly enough), with the message “Congresswoman Lois Capps: Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare drug benefits!”

When I opened the flier, I was urged to contact Ms. Capps and urge her to “take a stand against H.R. 2190.” A bit of research reveals that’s a bill, apparently headed nowhere, that would increase the discount Medicare receives on prescription drugs for low-income individuals enrolled in Medicare Part D. In other words, it would squeeze some drug company profits—which, in the words of the flier, amounts to a “hidden drug tax.”

This sort of misleading stuff isn’t surprising or even particularly interesting, but the flier’s approach fascinates me. The essential argument this organization (the No Medicare Tax Action Center) is making amounts to: Medicare is good, government is bad, and we need you to save Medicare by stopping the government.

Besides that being, well, insane, there is one other problem with this approach: Ms. Capps no longer my representative as of Jan. 1, due to redistricting. Somehow I doubt the threat of withholding my vote would cause her to lose too much sleep.