December 13, 2004

No More Pheasant!

This chart doesn't lie. By the way, here's my main concern about the whole Social Security debate, inspired by Greg Ip's Wall Street Journal piece today. Here we are, babbling on about the coming Social Security shortfall, when there's a massive and very catastrophic Medicare crisis also looming. Very catastrophic.

Ip estimates that the Social Security deficit could reach around 2 percent of GDP in 2080. Odds are it will be much, much less, given decent labor force and productivity growth. But Ip also estimates the Medicare deficit to be 10 percent of GDP in 2080. 10 percent! (The sum total of all federal taxes is ~20 percent of GDP right now.) And odds are the Medicare shortfall will be much, much more—medical costs have a way of catapulting out of control. Oh, and we haven't even discussed Medicaid yet...

Now as Atrios says, if our backs get pushed against the wall sometime in the future, we can always slash Social Security benefits. It's no big deal. But we cannot just hack Medicare benefits. What do you do, tell seniors to reduce their prescription by 75 percent? Only get 75 percent of a hip transplant?

So screw Social Security. It will get fixed if and when it needs to be fixed. Medicare is the only problem worth talking about. And yet the president wants to borrow lots of money, completely hamstring the federal government for a decade or more, and not do a damn thing about Medicare. Why? If I'm being chased by a bear, and I have a gun, I'm not going to run around bagging pheasants. Yet the Republicans are running around obsessed with bagging pheasants. But crikey. It's a bear, people...
-- Brad Plumer 8:42 PM || ||