. . . on that deficit commission. If I were Peter Orszag, I would be tearing my hair out. (Or maybe not, since he’s happily engaged to be married later this year.)
It’s obvious, and I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. The big long-term national debt problem is all about health care. This chart is from the January 2008 Budget and Economic Outlook of the Congressional Budget Office–for those keeping score, that’s one year before President Obama took office. It shows projected federal spending as a percentage of GDP.
The situation has gotten worse since then–overwhelmingly because of lost tax revenues due to the financial crisis and recession, not “big government” as some would have you believe–but the change over the last year is a rounding error compared to that huge light-blue wedge of Medicare and Medicaid. The health care bills now passed by both houses include, at the urging of Orszag and the administration, the most serious proposals ever put forward in Congress to curb the long-term growth of health care costs. In other words, no administration in the last few decades has tried as hard as this one to solve our nation’s main long-term fiscal problem (although they bungled their management of the financial crisis and financial reform).
And what do they get for their efforts? Popular backlash against “big government” and “deficits” and Scott Brown in the Senate (although Martha Coakley had a lot to do with the latter). If politicians were actually serious about deficits, they would vote for health care reform 100-0 in the Senate. And pigs would fly.
By James Kwak