Partnering with the Grim Reaper: Saving Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2010

Taxing the Young to Save Medicare for the Old

Medicare and Social Security make up the lion’s share of the federal budget.  The government is setting records for both deficits and debt.  And everyone is projecting both of these programs to go bankrupt.  A dim picture for anyone hoping to rely on either for their retirement.  And they’re worried (see AP-GfK Poll: Baby boomers fear outliving Medicare by Jennifer Agiesta and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar posted 12/29/2010 on the Associated Press).

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that baby boomers believe by a ratio of 2-to-1 they won’t be able to rely on the giant health insurance plan throughout their retirement.

The boomers took a running dive into adolescence and went on to redefine work and family, but getting old is making them nervous.

Now, forty-three percent say they don’t expect to be able to depend on Medicare forever, while only 20 percent think their Medicare is secure. The rest have mixed feelings.

The problem with both Medicare and Social Security is that they are both Ponzi schemes.  Scams by the government to make generations dependent on government.  And to funnel a lot of cash to Washington.  But the Baby Boomers mucked up the works.  Their free love in the 60s and use of birth control and abortion left their family tree a barren one.  The boomer generation of families with maybe 2-3 kids will support in retirement their parent’s generation of families with 10+kids.  There’ll be more people entering retirement than entering the workforce to pay for those retirees.

Here’s the math: when the last of the boomers reaches age 65 in about two decades, Medicare will be covering more than 80 million people. At the same time, the ratio of workers paying taxes to support the program will have plunged from 3.5 for each person receiving benefits currently, to 2.3.

And the numbers are worse.  Because Social Security will be covering those same people.  We’re approaching one working person supporting one person in retirement (Medicare and Social Security benefits combined).  Even Bernie Madoff’s great Ponzi scheme had a better ratio when his pyramid imploded.  It just isn’t sustainable anymore.  Something’s gotta give.  And by something I mean benefits paid out to people.

The government can’t balance its books without dealing with health care costs, and Medicare is in the middle. Some leading Republicans and a few Democrats have called for phasing out the program and instead giving each retiree a fixed payment — or voucher —to help them buy private medical insurance of their choice. The poll found doubts about the idea, and a generational debate.

Overall, a narrow majority (51 percent) of Americans opposed the voucher plan. But those born after 1980 favored it by 47 percent to 41 percent, while seniors opposed it 4-to-1. A majority of boomers were also opposed, with 43 percent strongly objecting.

And here’s the problem.  Those who don’t pay payroll taxes anymore (retirees) are all for raising taxes to pay for their current level of benefits.  No matter how much it bankrupts future generations.  And these people vote.  More than anyone else.  So for good reason they call Social Security the third rail of politics.  You touch it at your own peril.  Those with a lifetime of paying taxes ahead of them, on the other hand, would rather raise a family than support an individual in retirement.  Not only do they want to touch the third rail, they want to short it out.  But they don’t have the numbers.  Yet.

States to Make Steep Cuts in Medicaid to Stave off Bankruptcy

And we even haven’t talked about Medicaid yet.  This program is bankrupting the states.  It’s their biggest budget item.  And they can’t sustain it any longer (see Medicaid Pushes U.S. States Off ‘Cliff’ as Governors Seek Cuts by Christopher Palmeri and Pat Wechsler posted 12/22/2010 on Bloomberg).

Governors nationwide are taking a scalpel to Medicaid, the jointly run state and federal health-care program for 48 million poor Americans, half of whom are children. The single biggest expense for states, Medicaid consumes about 22 percent of their total $1.6 trillion in expenditures, more than what is allocated to elementary and secondary education, according to a National Governors Association report.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You know that states aren’t going to cut education.  The unions won’t let them.  So they have to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  And cut Medicaid.

Governors are slashing Medicaid to close as much as $140 billion in budget deficits for the 12 months starting in July 2012, after eliminating $130 billion in gaps this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group. Spending is being cut even though state revenues rose for the three quarters ended Sept. 30, as the U.S. recovered from the longest recession since the Great Depression, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, New York, said in a Nov. 30 report.

“I don’t think most states want to sentence people to death,” said Judy Solomon, co-director of health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy. “But what we see is a pretty bleak picture of tough cuts made this year, and next year’s numbers look worse.”

The sad truth is that sick people are costly.  Dead people aren’t.  So you can see where this is going.  Rationing.

Spending on Medicaid nationwide rose 8.8 percent last year, the most since 2002, according to Kaiser. Nearly every state issued at least one new policy to cut program costs in the past two years, including benefit reductions, increased copays and lower reimbursements to health-care providers.

Cost cutting and reductions in benefits.  Rationing.  And you know where that will lead to.  More dead people.  Which is the only thing that will save Medicaid.  That, or federal contributions.

Every state has a unique formula for calculating the federal contribution for Medicaid. The 12 with the highest personal income, including California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Colorado, typically depend on the U.S. government for about half their expenditures.

Lucky for the states that the federal government has money to spare.  Wait a tic, they don’t.  They’re setting record deficits and debt.  They don’t have the money.  Especially now that they’ve thrown Obamacare into the mix.  And the cost for this behemoth will dwarf Medicare and Medicaid.

States face the prospect of enrolling 16 million more people in Medicaid beginning in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care law Obama signed in March. It expands coverage to include certain childless adults under 65, according to Foley & Lardner LLP, a law firm in Milwaukee. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the increased expense for the first three years.

Well, perhaps not.  They’ll be sticking the states with some of those costs.  Poor states.  These unfunded federal mandates are killing them.  But they won’t be the only ones dying.  In three years time, when those federal subsidies expire, some of the current Medicaid patients may lose their heath care benefits.  And die.

Death Panels to Decide Life and Death

The problem with healthcare is that the raison d’être of healthcare is the very thing bankrupting it.  Providing healthcare to sick and dying people.  If the sick and dying would just hurry up and die these healthcare programs (Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare) would be just fine.  If only there was some mechanism to encourage people to take a pill to manage pain instead of consuming expensive healthcare services.  I mean, they are only delaying the inevitable.  They should just suck it up.  And do the right thing.  After receiving something like, oh, I don’t know, let’s call it end of life counseling (see WSJ Opinion Death Panels Revisited posted 12/29/2010 on The Wall Street Journal).

On Sunday, Robert Pear reported in the New York Times that Medicare will now pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling as part of seniors’ annual physicals. A similar provision was originally included in ObamaCare, but Democrats stripped it out amid the death panel furor. Now Medicare will enact the same policy through regulation.

We hadn’t heard about this development until Mr. Pear’s story, but evidently Medicare tried to prevent the change from becoming public knowledge. The provision is buried in thousands of Federal Register pages setting Medicare’s hospital and physician price controls for 2011 and concludes that such consultations count as a form of preventative care.

No wonder they hid it.  Encouraging people to hurry up and die.  That’s something that doesn’t win you points at the PTA.  The law as written isn’t all that bad, though.  The panels are voluntary.  So far.  But everything Big Government has done started small.  They are, after all, the master of incrementalism.  And with out of control healthcare spending bankrupting Medicare and Medicaid, what do you think these panels will evolve into?

The regulatory process isn’t supposed to be a black-ops exercise, but expect many more such nontransparent improvisations under the vast powers ObamaCare handed the executive branch. In July, the White House bypassed the Senate to recess appoint Dr. Berwick, who has since testified before Congress for all of two hours, and now he promulgates by fiat a reimbursement policy that Congress explicitly rejected, all while scheming with his political patrons to duck any public scrutiny.

If there was nothing to hide they wouldn’t have hidden this provision so deep in the federal register.  But when you hide things, there are reasons you hide them.  So much for transparency.  And the most ethical Congress ever (of course an ethical Congress is a moot point when the executive rules by fiat).

Under highly centralized national health care, the government inevitably makes cost-minded judgments about what types of care are “best” for society at large, and the standardized treatments it prescribes inevitably steal life-saving options from individual patients. This is precisely why many liberals like former White House budget director Peter Orszag support government-run health care to control costs: Technocrats in government can then decide who gets Avastin for cancer, say, and who doesn’t.

When a government bureaucrat decides who gets life-saving medication and who doesn’t, that sounds like a death panel to me.  Because that decision has the power of life and death.  They can be as nontransparent as they want but the truth is pretty clear.  To control the out of control spending of Medicare and Medicaid (and, in time, Obamacare), they will be partnering with the Grim Reaper.  Because dead people don’t consume health care benefits.  And that is their biggest problem.  Consumers of benefits.

The Swedish National Health Care System Rations Care

So what about the social utopias of European Socialism?  Those advanced nations that have national healthcare?  Are they having these problems?  Of course they are.  In fact, their future is ours.  Here’s a small sampling of what to expect (see Man’s penis amputated following misdiagnosis posted 12/29/2010 in Science and Technology on The Local).

A Swedish man was forced to have his penis amputated after waiting more than a year to learn he had cancer.

The man, who is in his sixties, first visited a local clinic in Blekinge in southern Sweden in September 2009 for treatment of a urinary tract infection, the local Blekinge Läns Tidning (BLT) reported.

When he returned in March 2010 complaining of foreskin irritation, the doctor on duty at the time diagnosed the problem as a simple case of inflammation.

After three weeks passed without the prescribed treatment alleviating the man’s condition, he was instructed to seek further treatment at Blekinge Hospital.

But it took five months before he was able to schedule an appointment at the hospital.

When he finally met with doctors at the hospital, the man was informed he had cancer and his penis would have to be removed.

It remains unclear if the man would have been able to keep his penis had the cancer been detected sooner.

The matter has now been reported to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) under Sweden’s Lex Maria laws, the informal name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

Misdiagnosis.  And long waits.  National healthcare.  Where government bureaucrats cut costs and make doctors work long hours.  Not a very attractive offer for all those years of medical school.  So there’s a doctor shortage.  And, consequently, long waits.  In this case, 6 months to be advised he needed to go someplace else.  Then another 5 to get an appointment someplace else.  In the mean time the cancer spread.  This is what happens when you ration health care.

Is this the future you want?  It’s not the future I want.

The Third Rail of Politics is a Generational Thing

It’s a generational battle.  The young want to cut taxes (and benefits).  Because they’re paying those taxes.  And not consuming the benefits.  The old want to raise taxes and maintain benefits.  Because they’re not paying those taxes.  But are consuming the benefits.  Right now there are more old than young.  So you can guess who will win this struggle.  Bankrupting the future will help the politicians stay in office today.  So the old will win.

But there is a little irony in all of this.  To save these programs (Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare), they need old people to die.  But once they do, the politicians will lose their political support.  The younger generation (whose future the politicians mortgaged) will then broom them out of office.  And they will be all too glad to short out that third rail once and for all.

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LESSONS LEARNED #40: “Big Government is more efficient when old people die sooner.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 18th, 2010

Big Government is a Ponzi Scheme

When it comes to government funding, birthrates and death rates are key.  Think of government as a great Ponzi scheme.  Ponzi schemes work when more people pay into the scam than collect from the scam.  Like in a pyramid scheme.  Those collecting benefits are the few at the top.  Those paying in are the many at the base.

An increasing birthrate means more taxpayers for each successive generation.  This keeps the base of the pyramid growing.  A steady or increasing death rate keeps the top of the pyramid smaller than the base.  A declining death rate, on the other hand, will flip the pyramid upside down.  Because the population at the top will grow larger than the population at the bottom.

Big Government tries to keep as many people as possible dependent on government.  Lots of different programs attach lots of different people to the welfare state.  But when it comes to big numbers, old people can’t be beat.  The lion’s share of government assistance goes to them via Social Security and Medicare.  And they are the most politically active.  That means they vote.  And when they vote, they vote to keep their benefits.

Of course, this is a dual-edged sword.  Yes, old people can provide a loyal voting base to sustain Big Government.  But on the other hand, the cost of their benefits is growing so large that it is undermining the very foundations of Big Government.  How?  By the double whammy of a falling birthrate and a declining death rate.  For various reasons, fewer people are being born.  And old people are living longer.  This has flipped the pyramid in the great Ponzi scheme upside down.  The growth rate of those collecting benefits is greater than the growth rate of those paying into the scheme.

An Increasing Life Expectancy is Bankrupting Social Security

FDR signed Social Security into law in 1935.  The average life expectancy in 1930 was approximately 59 years.  The retirement age in the Social Security Act of 1935?  65.  That’s right, the average American would have been dead for 6 years before qualifying for Social Security retirement benefits.  That’s a 6 year cost cushion.  But not everyone died at 59, though.  So a lot of people lived to receive those benefits.  But one thing the actuaries were sure about then, this Ponzi scheme was going to be a big winner.  For Big Government.

The average life expectancy increased to approximately 70 years in 1960.  In other words, people were living approximately 11 years longer.  That 6 year cost cushion just became a 5 year cost exposure.  That’s a swing of 11 years.  The actuaries in 1930 never saw this coming.

Social Security had its first crisis in 1975.  To save the program, they increased payroll taxes and decreased benefits.  Another crisis came in 1983.  Now they started taxing some Social Security benefits.  Even taxed federal employees (who previously didn’t pay these payroll taxes).   And they would increase the retirement age for later retirees.

By 2000, the average life expectancy increased to approximately 77 years.  That’s another 7 years.  That’s a swing of 18 years from 1930.  A huge actuarial miscalculation.  The population was getting far older then the FDR administration ever guessed.  And, to make matters worse, the birthrate was declining.

A Declining Birthrate is Bankrupting Social Security

The birthrate (per thousand of population) had been declining from 1910 (30.1) to 1920 (27.1) to 1930 (21.3).  That’s about a 10% decline from 1910 to 1920.  And a 20% decline from 1920 to 1930.    Perhaps that’s the reason for the 6-year cost cushion they gave themselves.  They saw fewer babies being born.  Which meant fewer taxpayers would be paying for later retirees.

The birthrate fell to 19.4 in 1940.  Though it was falling, it wasn’t falling as much.  Only 9% from 1930 to 1940.  Then came the baby boom generation.  The birthrate in 1950 shot up to 24.1, a 24% increase from 1940.  More babies meant more taxpayers.  This birthrate held pretty steady in 1960.  No doubt the LBJ administration felt optimistic. 

LBJ exploded federal spending.  He added Medicare and Medicaid.  Made Social Security more generous.  And why not?  Things were looking up.  Birthrate-wise.

But it was short-lived.  The birthrate went from 23.7 in 1960 to 18.4 in 1970.  That’s a 22% decline.  The birthrate was 15.9 in 1980.  That was a 14% decline from 1970.  Or a 33% decline from 1960.  Birth control and abortion were taking their toll on the U.S. birthrate.  Fewer babies meant fewer future taxpayers.  And fewer taxpayers could pay for less government, not more.  The LBJ administration was wrong to feel optimistic.

The Selfish Baby Boomers Invert the Ponzi Scheme Pyramid

The baby boom generation has really thrown a wrench in the works.  The government used their spike in the birth rate as a baseline for future government spending.  But they screwed the government in the end.  Instead of being good little taxpayers by making even more little taxpayers, they stopped having babies.  They didn’t stop having sex.  They just stopped having babies.  It was the era of free love.  And ‘free love’ had no room for babies.

And it’s these baby boomers that are working themselves up to the top of the pyramid.  But being the selfish ingrates that they are, they’ve left no one to follow behind them to keep the Ponzi scheme going.  And to make matters worse, they’ll be living longer in retirement than anyone ever guessed.

It’s a perfect storm of sorts.  A declining death rate.  An even more declining birthrate.  And a huge chunk of the population about to go on the public dole.  But it gets even worse.  The boomers will be living longer in retirement because of huge outlays in Medicare spending to keep them alive.  In other words, the government is spending a fortune to make their financial problems worse.

Amnesty, Catholics and Dead Retirees May Save Social Security

They’re trying to fix things on the taxpayer side.  The Big Government legislators are desperate to give illegal aliens amnesty and citizenship.  To them it’s simple math.  More people equal more taxpayers.  And these taxpayers will be Catholic.  Catholics don’t use birth control and abortion like Americans currently do.  Their birthrate is less likely to decline.  (Approximately 1 in 5 of young children in the United States is Hispanic already.  They project that to increase to 1 in 4 within a few decades.)

On the benefit side, they’ve already raised the retirement age to 67.  And there’s talk about raising it to 69.  If more people die before they’re eligible to collect retirement, that’s a lot of benefits the government doesn’t have to pay.  They’re also talking about cutting the Medicare budget.  The less they spend, the more may die.  And dead people don’t consume Medicare benefits.

There’s no getting around the fact that old people are a huge drain on government.  Though they worked hard to get these people dependent on government, their continued living is becoming more of a burden than a benefit.  An increasing lifespan is anathema to Big Government.  Old retirees take more than they give.  Young workers, on the other hand, give more than they take.  The government needs more young workers.  And fewer old retirees.

(Social Security + Medicare) Spending = 2 X Defense Spending

To be efficient government has to minimize costs in relation to revenue (i.e., taxes).  And there’s an 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Old people.  Nothing can impact the budget more.  Even war.  Social Security and Medicare combined make up approximately 40% of the federal budget.  Defense spending is approximately 20%.  A blind man can see the gorilla.  Government needs these old people to hurry up and die.

And now add Obamacare to the equation.  Which will cover more people than Social Security.  The costs will be astronomical.  Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare will easily eclipse 60% of the total federal budget.  That kind of spending cannot be sustained.  Greece, France and Great Britain have proven this in the 21st century.

That’s some serious cost to contain.  And how do you contain that kind of cost?  You do what the Left says the private health insurers do.  Deny coverage to sick people.  And they will.  They’ll have to.  And with the power of life and death literally in their hands (i.e., death panels), they’ll be able to.  They’ll be able to maximize the number of young workers (by treating them).  Minimize the number of old retirees (by not treating them).  As well as minimize the number of undesirables who take more than they give (by not treating them).  Or even take more serious measures with those seriously ill or impaired (euthanasia).

Don’t think it can happen?  It’s happened in other Big Government states.  In fact, the Progressives even talked about the scientific benefits of eugenics and euthanasia here in the United States in the early 20th century.  To deal with undesirables.  So, yes, it could happen here.  Because it almost once did.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #40: “Big Government is more efficient when old people die sooner.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 16th, 2010

Revenues Must be Greater than Costs in Both Private Business and Government

Private business must make a profit.  That means the costs of their business can NOT exceed their revenues.  There may be times when costs do exceed revenue.  Such as during a recession.  Or when another business offers the same goods or services for less.  If these periods last too long, a business must act.  Find ways to increase their revenues.  Or cut costs.

Apple continues to innovate and create new products that people want.  This keeps their revenues greater than their costs.  GM, on the other hand, has not.  Their costs have exceeded their revenues.  So they have cut back on production.  And laid off people.  But, in the end, they still needed a government bailout to survive.

Government can tax and print money.  And run perpetual deficits.  So they don’t hold themselves to the same standards as private business.  But if they tax too much or print too much money, it can push the economy into recession and/or inflation.  So they try to make their revenues (taxes) cover as much of their costs (government spending) as possible. 

A Growing Population Can Fund Social Security and Big Government

If you go back 100 years, there was no Social Security.  No Medicare.  No big federal government.  That’s the way the Founding Fathers wanted it.  They minimized the money and reach of the federal government.  Because they were students of history.  They knew governments tended to oppress their people when they had money and power.

In the first century or so of our nation, it was easier to keep the size of government small.  Our population was small.  A big federal budget would require huge per capita taxes.  But that changed as the population grew.  Soon, it was possible to have big federal budgets from modest federal taxes.

We saw the growth of Big Government beginning around the turn of the 20th century.  First it was Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives.  Then came FDR.  He gave us Social Security.  Which was basically a Ponzi Scheme.  It worked at first as all Ponzi Schemes do.  As long as more people are entering into the scheme than collecting benefits, Social Security was sound as a pound.

Population Growth Rate and Big Government Peak and Crash in the 1970s

A growing population means a growing tax base.  The more babies are born, the more future taxpayers there will be.  And when FDR gave us Social Security, it wasn’t uncommon for a family to have 10 or more children.  That’s a lot of future federal taxes they could count on.

Then came LBJ.  He saw what FDR did.  Liked it.  Then tried to outdo him.  He gave us his Great Society (to end poverty and racial injustice).  And Medicare (health care for those 65 and older).  And other stuff.  But these programs were very, very expensive.  So he raised taxes.  A lot.

Then it all crashed in the 1970s.  The increase in taxes to pay for all that government spending stalled the economy.  When they tried to stimulate it with monetary policy, they unleashed inflation.  The U.S. dollar was convertible to gold then.  Which is a bad thing when you’re printing money.  For when you depreciate your currency, you increase the value of gold as measured by your currency; it takes a lot more devalued dollars to buy the same amount of gold.

Well, foreign governments exchanged their dollars for gold.  So much so that Nixon suspended the convertibility of dollars into gold in 1971.   Without the gold restraint on printing money, they printed even more.  We had both recession and inflation.  Stagflation.   Double digit inflation, interest rates and unemployment.  This malaise made Carter a one-term president.

Birth Control and Abortion – The Death Knell of Big Government

So what happened?  Where did it go all wrong?  It goes back to the number of taxpayers.  Something happened between FDR and the 1970s.  We weren’t having as many babies.

Instead of 10 or more children in families, many families were having only 2 or 3 kids.  Widespread use of birth control and abortion drastically reduced the population growth rate of the country.  Fewer taxpayers were being born than before.  Which meant that more people would be entering retirement than there would be new taxpayers entering the work force to pay for these retirees.

This is how Ponzi Schemes fail.  When there are more people drawing benefits than paying into the scheme, the whole house of cards collapses.  And this is a big problem for government.  To support their massive spending, they need more, not fewer, people entering the work force.

How can Government Save Social Security and Medicare?  Old People Just Need to Hurry Up and Die.

Well, there’s a couple of ways to address this problem.  First there’s the revenue side.  They can increase the taxes they collect.  By raising tax rates on individuals.  Or by simply creating more individuals to tax.  Such as amnesty for illegal aliens.  But both of these options are difficult to do without hurting your chances at getting reelected.

Then there’s the cost side.  They can cut benefits.  Increase the Social Security retirement age.  But these, too, have political consequences.  Because these old coots tend to vote more than any other demographic.  Which can make them a real pain in the behind.

Of course, if they would jut die before reaching retirement age, the government doesn’t have to pay them or their survivors.  And if they’re dead, they won’t be consuming any Medicare benefits.  You see, not only are they the most vocal group at election time, but they are also the most costly when it comes to government benefits.  The government could kill two birds with one stone if these old codgers would just hurry up and die.

One Way for Big Government to Cut Health Care Costs:  Death Panels

The government doesn’t see your mother or grandmother.  They’re looking at numbers in columns.  They are having trouble increasing the numbers in one column (tax revenue).  And are having trouble keeping the numbers in the other column from growing (benefits).  Because of old people.  Who don’t work anymore.  Or pay much in income taxes.  But they consume the lion’s share of the benefits.  They’re the biggest thorn in the government’s side.  If it wasn’t for them, their programs wouldn’t forever be facing bankruptcy.  You can see why they aren’t the government’s favorite people.

So they increase the retirement age.  In hopes more will die before reaching retirement.  And those who do reach retirement age, well, they’ll have fewer years left to enjoy their benefits.  And they make cuts in the Medicare program.  Disallow some reimbursements.  Maybe prod a few seniors to an earlier death.  Why?  Because these kinds of cost savings are the only cost savings that will have any impact in a government-managed system.

Then there’s the holy grail of Big Government.  Government-managed universal health care.  Obamacare, in its latest manifestation.  And, of course, it will end up just like Social Security and Medicare.  For the same reasons Social Security and Medicare ended up the way they did.  But Obamacare will have a new twist.

Government panels will determine who gets medical treatment.  And who doesn’t.  Based on a ‘return on investment’ analysis used to manage and optimize health care costs.  Will medical treatment result in more taxpaying years for the patient?  If yes, treatment approved.  If not, treatment not approved.  If anything, the government’s death panels will be a model of efficiency.  On paper.

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President Obama’s Bipartisan Commission’s Useless Report on Deficit Reduction

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2010

Deficit Reduction:  Increase Taxes, Molest Our Women and Have Old People Hurry Up and Die

President Obama’s bipartisan commission has issued their report on deficit reduction.  A lot of unpleasant things in it.  But, then again, what do you expect from a commission/blue ribbon panel?  Politicians lie and kiss a lot of ass to get elected.  And they’re not going to throw that all away acting like they got a pair.  So they hide behind commissions and blue ribbon panels and say, hey, it isn’t me that wants to raise your taxes and cut your benefits.  It’s these guys.  These commission folks.  And they get a report that will meet with certain opposition and die in committee.  But they can say they tried.  And that’s how you do politics when you got no balls.

You know, Sara Palin probably could have done a better job.  She’s hunted bear.  She’s got balls.  Figuratively, of course.  That’s what you need to do the tough stuff.  Guts.  Pity Barack Obama is no Sarah Palin.

So what’s in this report that’s got everyone talking?  More taxes.  And spending cuts (see Fiscal Panel Chiefs Eye $1 Tril Tax Hike, $1.5 Tril Outlay Cut by Jed Graham, Investor’s Business Daily, posted 11/10/2010). 

  • Raise taxes by a cumulative $1 trillion through 2020.
  • Cut discretionary spending by nearly $1.5 trillion over the decade.
  • Raise Social Security’s retirement age to 69 and beyond.
  • Trim cost-of-living increases for current retirees and disabled beneficiaries.
  • Apply a 15-cent gas tax.
  • Cut $500 billion from Medicare and other federal health programs over 10 years.

Well, we know higher taxes don’t stimulate the economy.  So, to pay down the deficit we are going to prolong the recession.  Swell.  Well, at least old people won’t have to worry much.  They’ll be put out of their misery with the ‘hurry up and die’ provisions included.  Less money to live on.  And less health care so they will hurry up and die before reaching 69.  And, if they do, not only does the government not have to pay them their Social Security benefits, but they can keep all that money the newly deceased paid into the system (the deceased’s Social Security benefits don’t go to their heirs which explains why government is so opposed to private 401(k)s – those contributions can be bequeathed to surviving heirs).  And the cuts in discretionary spending?

They proposed cutting annual discretionary spending by $200 billion, half from defense and half from nondefense.

Ah, yes, the ubiquitous defense cuts.  Gotta have defense cuts.  But you know what?  I don’t think they’re going to sit well after this holiday season.  The fondling of our wives, mothers and daughters in our airports.  Strangers looking at semi-naked images of them.  It’s not right.  Is this the price of safety?  The molestation of our wives, mothers and daughters?  I think not.  There are other ways.  And I’m not talking about the apology tour.  And before all you peaceniks start blaming this on America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember this.  We weren’t in those countries before 9/11/2001. It’s better to violate 3-4 enemy combatants a year (say by water-boarding) than having all our women and children molested whenever they fly.  And if it takes a great big fat defense budget to do this, so be it.  Let’s have someone else suffer the fear and humiliation for a change.

Republicans and Democrats Disagree.  Centrists See a Way to Lie to Independents.

So what are others saying?  Well, The New York Times notes there ain’t a chance in hell of it being enacted as-is (see the Op-Ed A Deficit of Respect by Tobin Harshaw posted 11/13/2010 on The New York Times).

“Among Democrats, liberals are in near revolt against the White House over the issue, even as substantive and political forces push Mr. Obama to attack chronic deficits in a serious way,” reports The Times’s Jackie Calmes. “At the same time, Republicans face intense pressure from their conservative base and the Tea Party movement to reject any deal that includes tax increases, leaving their leaders with little room to maneuver in any negotiation and at risk of being blamed by voters for not doing their part.”

And The Washington Post dittos that (see Analysis: Deficit panel pushes Dems, GOP by Andrew Taylor and Charles Babington, The Associated Press, posted 11/12/2010 on The Washington Post).

Their plan – mixing painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare with big tax increases – has no chance of enactment as written, certainly not as a whole.

But they also point out warring sides could reach compromise.

On the other hand, a 1982 Social Security commission chaired by Alan Greenspan came up with a plan for solvency that earned the blessing of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas O’Neill, D-Mass. It passed Congress easily and generated almost three decades of program surpluses.

Then again, President Obama is no Ronald Reagan.  Reagan listened to the people.  He communicated with the people.  Unlike Obama.  Who’s detached and aloof.  He pushed his agenda against the will of the people.  For him, it’s all about him.  And there are some Democrats who like him as much as he likes himself.  They look at this report and see not what’s best for the country. But what’s best for Barack Obama (see Deficit Directive Tracks GOP Aims by John D. McKinnon and Laura Meckler posted 11/13/2010 on the Wall Street Journal).

Centrist Democrats are encouraging the president to embrace bipartisan ideas for deficit reduction, even if these are unpopular with the party’s liberal wing. They say that among other benefits, that would help Mr. Obama regain credibility with independent voters he will need to win re-election in 2012. Independents backed him in 2008 but shifted to the GOP this year.

A fight with liberals might even be politically helpful, said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. “If you’re looking at re-election, your No. 1 imperative has got to be winning back the center of the electorate,” he said.

It’s nice to know where some people’s priorities are.

Gridlock Can Reduce the Deficit.  So Can Repealing Obamacare.

Of course, all this bipartisan rancor can be a good thing (see Deficit report favors ‘do-nothing Congress’ by David Sands posted 11/11/2010 on The Washington Times).

The report’s scariest deficit scenario relies on a Congressional Budget Office projection that under what it calls “current policy,” the U.S. government’s debt will soar from the current 60 percent of GDP to 100 percent of GDP by 2023 and to twice the country’s annual economic output by the year 2035.

Current policy?  What’s that?

But “current policy” as defined by CBO does — in the sometimes upside-down world of Washington — require action. It assumes that Congress will pass and President Obama will sign a continuation of at least some of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire; that lawmakers will once again vote to ease the bite of the alternative minimum tax (AMT); that Congress will block a scheduled increase in estate tax rates; and that the government will continue to pass so-called “doc fixes” to shield physicians from mandated cuts in the payments they get under Medicare.

And all that means what?

But if none of those actions are taken — what the CBO calls the “current law” baseline — the deficit numbers look considerably brighter.

In layman terms, we haven’t spent a lot of this money yet.  If Republicans and Democrats simply agree to disagree and give us gridlock, actual deficits won’t be as high as projected.  Yes, there will be pain for some.  But the hole we’ll dig for ourselves won’t be as deep.

And this is really the frustrating part of this whole debate.  These are projections.  They haven’t spent the money yet.  So don’t.  Just don’t spend the damn money.  Repealing Obamacare should be a no-brainer.  That trillion dollar abomination hasn’t given anyone anything yet.  So kill it.  Now.  Before it becomes another entitlement like Social Security.  Come on.  Do the right thing.  And legislate like you got a pair.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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