The Wall Street Journal CEO Council is an event that brings together elite corporate leaders, journalists, and politicians. It is usually only lightly covered by the media, so the public ends up not seeing much of what goes on.
We’ve obtained a transcript of the event’s dinner meeting that took place earlier this week. At the meeting, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), making conversation with former Senate Minority Leader and current corporate lobbyist Trent Lott, suggests that President Obama should “courageously” cut Medicare by raising the eligibility age in order to combat the deficit:
LIEBERMAN: I’d say that sometime soon– both privately to Speaker Boehner and — and also publicly, he — he should– make clear that he’s prepared– to– to change some of — Medicare status quo. [...] But I think the President will have to make clear he’ll either support some– well, for instance, in– beginning to increase the age of eligibility. [...] Incidentally, increasing the age of eligibility to be more close (LAUGH) to the actual age at which people are living, as opposed to the age– that they were living in 1965, when Medicare was adopted, the average age It’s now closing in on 80 — saves a lotta money– every year. The president has to show the public, and the Republicans, who he’s asking to support higher revenue, or tax reform, that he’s prepared and Democrats are prepared to deal– courageously with– entitlements.
To be clear — Americans as a whole are not living longer. White-collar workers are, but blue-collar workers have barely seen any increase in life expectancy.
Raising the Medicare age “to 67 would cause an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket health insurance costs for beneficiaries who would have been otherwise covered by Medicare.”
What could Lieberman’s motivation be in pushing for these Medicare cuts? The health insurer Aetna is the ninth-largest single donor in his Senate career. He’s retiring, and earlier this year, his staff told me that he won’t publicly disclose any negotiations he has for possible lobbying jobs in the future. Maybe he thinks by cutting Medicare, he’ll be able to get a lobbying gig with the insurance industry in the future.
Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren has an alternative, truly “balanced” approach to tackling the deficit. During a campaign debate last month, she laid out a popular, credible vision for dealing with the deficit: cut back on wasteful military and agriculture subsidy spending, and make the rich pay their fair share. Watch Warren explain: