12-05-10 - Health Care and Deficits

I think Republicans have reached a new peak of hypocrisy and inconsistency.

"Deficits are bad" , "Deficits caused the crisis"

First of all this is just ridiculously not true. Deficits may be a problem 10+ years down the road when the interest becomes excessive, but deficit spending in no way hurts an economy (in fact it helps) and the deficits have absolutely nothing to do with the current weakness in our economy.

And furthermore, where were you during GW Bush when taxes were cut and spending raised? Oh, that's right you were writing policy papers that supported Cheney's famous "deficits don't matter" diatribe.

"We need to control health care spending"

Umm , where were you when Obama was trying to control health care spending last term? Oh, that's right, you were doing photo-ops with seniors in Florida guaranteeing them that their benefits would not be cut. WTF.

Oh, and thanks for the prescription drug benefit in which you very specifically ensured pharma companies would get to keep making obscene profits and the government would not be allowed to require cheaper drugs.

"We need to do something drastic to control the deficit" ; "medicare and social security will bankrupt America"

This is not just a Republican lie, but also a "centrist Democrat" lie. It's simply not true. First of all, the main thing we need to worry about is the short term; most of the big costs that have contributed to the recent deficit are temporary, but the big one we can control is to rescind the GWB tax cuts.

One issue is that a lot of the liars like to compare the pre-recession deficit to the post-recession deficit (which is of course absurd, because tax receipts change massively). For example the WSJ did this to claim that the "bush tax cut is not the problem" because before the recession the deficit wasn't so bad. The NYT also did this to point out that "rescinding the bush tax cut is not enough" to fix the deficit, by using post-recession deficit numbers. Umm, are you guys really that fucking stupid or are you intentionally lieing? Of course the dominant factor is whether the economy is in boom or bust; it is foolish to try to completely balance your budget during a recession. Also clearly you can get away with cutting taxes during a boom, but that doesn't mean you should.

But they don't want to do that, so they cast the Medicare/Social Security problem as "intractable". That's nonsense. The way they usually distort it is to say that the "SS fund will be bankrupt at some point". That's absurd, the SS fund's balance has nothing to do with SS's viability, you simply have to look at what the total cost of it would be. One easy way to fix SS funding permanently is to eliminate the cap on SS tax. Medicare involves an even bigger lie, they claim that aging population makes it an inherently rising cost that will crush the youth. This is also not true (and particularly not true as long as we allow immigration). In fact, the thing that will crush us is super-inflationary growth in health care costs.

See for example :

Why Health Reform Must Counter the Rising Costs of Health Insurance Premiums - The Commonwealth Fund
packet_HealthCareWydenBennettused062607.pdf - Powered by Google Docs
Insurance Premiums Still Rising Faster Than Inflation and Wages - NYTimes.com
Health Care Costs - Baby Boomers Not to Blame for Rising Health Care Costs
Fox's Cavuto so wedded to tax cut mythology that he wrongly corrects his guest Media Matters for America
Employer Healthcare Costs Rising Faster Than Inflation - Health News - redOrbit
Critics Still Wrong on What�s Driving Deficits in Coming Years � Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
CBO Extending Tax Cuts Could Have Huge Debt Impact - TheFiscalTimes.com

"states' rights"

I'm pretty sure nobody actually believes this, it's just a way to hide what they really want. Basically any time the federal government does something they don't like they claim to like "state's rights", eg. national health care, environmental regulations, etc. But then when individual states do things they don't want, suddenly the federal government needs to step in, eg. euthanasia, gay marriage, California's higher environmental standards, etc. It's just ridiculously transparently bullshit.

"constitutional originalism"

See above (states' rights). For one thing the whole idea of this is pretty absurd (that we should be bound by the exact intended meaning of the founders), but moreover it's just bullshit that they abuse to push certain policies. Reading the original meaning is so open to interpretation that it's like reading tarot cards - you can find whatever you want in it.


Thatcher Ulrich said...

This NY Times Budget Puzzle is pretty cool, it quantifies the major budget items and lets you play with them:


It took me about 10 minutes to balance the budget, and 20 minutes to tweak my solution just right: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=82230lpb

The solution can be summed up as "partly undo the Bush tax cuts". Also you pretty much have to limit the growth of Medicare spending, which is just "duh".

The fact that there is any difficulty in doing this in real life highlights the effectiveness of the Bush-Cheney strategy of "starve the beast". Cut taxes without regard to spending, make "raise taxes" politically impossible, start a war, wait until the government breaks, then claim the only way out is to eviscerate SS and Medicare.

Jon Olick said...

I think that the minimum age of a president should be raised. Much Much higher. If they are nearing the end of their life, they are more incentivized to make policies which will benefit their kids, their kids kids, and so on.

old rants