The only one who are an actual danger to the well-being of the elderly, and the GOP. That's according to Jacob Weisberg, who has biting piece up over at Newsweek right now: Death, Republican Style: It's the GOP that's out to get Granny. It's a must read.
He doesn't even get into how it's the GOP who for 60 years have been trying to dismantle Social Security (the privatization scam being just the most recent example) or how for 40 years have, in vote after vote, done their leveled best to decapitate Medicare. The GOP is a cancer that the elderly can't afford not to excise.
The republicans charge that Democratic health care reform would, in Sen. Charles Grassley's words, "pull the plug on Grandma." According to Sen. Jon Kyl, the bills before Congress would ration medical treatment by age. Rep. John Boehner says they promote euthanasia. Sarah Palin has raised the specter of "death panels." Such fears are understandable. It's not preposterous to imagine laws that would try to save money by encouraging the inconvenient elderly to make an early exit. After all, that's been the Republican policy for years.
It was Grassley himself who devised the "Throw Mama From the Train" provision of the GOP's 2001 tax cut. The estate-tax revision he championed will reduce the estate tax to zero next year. But when it expires at year's end, the tax will jump back up to its previous level of 55 percent. Grassley's exploding tax break has an entirely foreseeable, if unintended, consequence: it incentivizes ailing, elderly rich people to end their lives—paging Dr. Kevorkian—before midnight on Dec. 31, 2010. It also gives their children an incentive to sign DNR orders and switch off respirators in time for the deadline. This would be a great plot for a P. D. James novel if it weren't an actual piece of legislation.
This is not merely hypothetical. Serious economists take the possibility seriously. In a 2001 paper entitled "Dying to Save Taxes," economists from the University of Michigan and the University of British Columbia examined 13 changes in U.S. tax law since 1917 and concluded that benefactors die in greater numbers just before tax hikes and just after tax cuts. A 2006 study done in Australia, which abolished its inheritance tax in July 1979, reached the same conclusion. Statistics showed that more than half the people who would ordinarily have died in the last week of June 1979—and whose heirs would have been subject to the tax—managed to avoid it by surviving into July. Republicans in Congress have created a similar inducement for Grandma not to die before January 2010, but to make sure she is gone by January 2011.Other GOP policies promote death for senior citizens with more modest incomes....