If You Care About The Deficit, It’s The Medicare, Stupid

Posted by | October 21, 2010 12:05 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

With the current anger at government, the common theme echoed by Republicans across the land is that government spending is out of control.  The deficits are indeed scary but few Republicans have any proposals to deal meaningfully with them (indeed they want to allow the Bush tax cuts to continue which would explode deficits further).  David Leonhardt argues that without talking about Medicare, talking about deficits is meaningless:

It won’t be possible to pay the bill by cutting other programs. They’re not big enough. Making big cuts to everything but Medicare and Social Security — shrinking the military and other programs to their smallest share of the economy since World War II — might save $200 billion a year by 2035. But by then, annual Medicare spending is projected to grow by more than $1 trillion.

So any deficit strategy needs to focus on Medicare.

So surely Republicans have a plan to deal with Medicare?  After all they are the policy of fiscal responsibility, right?

But the more recent political history of Medicare has been quite different. If anything, Republicans have been less fiscally conservative toward Medicare than Democrats. . . But, for now, the party of small government — the party that opposed the creation of Medicare — is also the party of big Medicare.

As long as their constituents are yelling “Keep the government’s hands off of my Medicare” the Republicans won’t be doing anything about the deficit.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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