Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Deficit Commission Meets

for the first time April 27, 2010. Expectations seem to be fairly low for what they will achieve since there is no mechanism to preference their recommendations with respect to congressional action. There was such a commission in the works that appeared poised to pass against some powerful Democrats wishes, but 7 Republicans who had supported such a commission early during this current Congress changed their mind in January, 2010 and it died by a 53-56 vote (because everything takes 60 votes in this Congress. However, the problems with the long term structural deficit (meaning the degree to which the ins don't match the outs over time after the economy is roughly normal) are immense and will not get better without strong action. Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the commission says his mother urged him not to touch Medicare. His quote in response sums up what we have to do.

"We have to touch Medicare. We have to touch Social Security. We have to touch Defense. And we have to take a strong look at revenue."

The TARP and the Recovery Act, are all irrelevant to this, meaning that even if we hadn't had those or even if we hadn't had a terrible recession, we would still be sunk long term if we don't have some large reforms, mostly because the baby boomers had fewer children than their parents.

Some good background material here. And if you are sick of talking about health policy but ready to talk about the deficit.....Medicare and Medicaid are at the heart of the deficit issue. Social Security as well, but it is a much simpler program and since benefits are indexed to inflation, it cannot grow at 2-3 times overall inflation like a health care program can (and has been doing for 3 decades).

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