Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NY Times on Deficit Commission

Story in today's NY Times on the effect the election will have on the movement to adopt, or even consider difficult proposals made by the Deficit Reduction Commission that could put us on a path to a long term sustainable budget. The politician's unwillingness to talk seriously and reasonably about what type of long term changes are needed in the benefit structure of programs like Medicare and Social Security, the appropriate level of Military spending, and the structure of the tax code that could pay for the spending we decide we want reflects the delusion of the public.

Over the past year or so, I have given many talks around North Carolina talking about the need for health reform, my view that PPACA is a good start but that many harder steps will follow if we are to truly deal with costs, and the need to develop a plan for a long term sustainable budget. When talking in generalities, the vast majority of people nod and agree. Lo and behold, they hate all this spending! However, when you begin to talk about any policy that would have a chance to slow the rate of health care inflation, for example, people change their tune.
  • Don't cap the tax exclusion of employer paid health insurance, I work hard for my benefits.
  • Don't [pick one of many policies that could make Social Security solvent beyond 2039], that would mean a cutting of benefits/raising of taxes [hint: those are the two choices for Social Security reform]
  • Don't begin systematically asking questions like 'does this improve quality of life?' 'does this extend life?' 'and how much does it cost per benefit?' in a program like Medicare, why that is rationing.
And so on. Our country desperately needs to grow up and learn how to talk about hard things, make some practical decisions, and move on. Before you blame the politicians, realize that their ambivalence to do the hard thing simply reflects us as a people. That has got to change.

Update: Ezra Klein saying if you think PPACA slows costs too slowly, be for things that can change that.

More update: if you need a giggle break, here is Pat Toomey, being pushed to identify one thing he would cut (after waxing on and on about fiscal repsonsibility during campaign, etc.) identifying one thing federal study abroad funding.....total is $635 Million.....So, if we abolished that then the projected deficit next year would be about $1 Trillion, 199 Billion and 365 Million instead of $1 Trillion, 200 Billion. Maybe he is just pacing himself.....

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