Blahous: Barack Cassidy and the Health-Reform-Myth Kids

posted at 3:35 pm on June 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Chuck Blahous uses a clever pop-culture film reference to make his point about the myth that containing health-care costs will reform entitlement spending.  In an article for the Hudson Institute, the former member of the National Economic Council cites a new CBO report that clearly shows aging as the prime driver of the entitlement collapse, in both Social Security and Medicare.  While containing costs will help later, it won’t make a bit of difference until we solve the demographic issues:

My onetime colleague Andrew Biggs points out that this story resembles that movie scene in which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are debating whether to jump off a high cliff into roaring rapids. The Sundance Kid protests, “I can’t swim!” — to which Butch Cassidy reassuringly says not to worry, for “The fall will probably kill you!”

And that’s the reality here. Granted, excess health care cost inflation will probably eventually be our biggest problem. That’s only true, though, if we enable the federal budget to survive the challenges of population over the next few decades. In other words, we need to survive the fall before learning to swim even becomes relevant.

The sooner that this reality sets in across the political spectrum, the sooner we can have an informed discussion of the fiscal choices facing our federal government.

I wrote about the new CBO report yesterday, in which I pointed out that the previous CBO director is now, not coincidentally, Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag.  Blahous rips Orszag’s work in this article, especially for its perpetuation of several myths about the Medicare entitlement disaster:

  • We don’t really have a spending problem (other than on health care).
  • We don’t really have an “entitlement” problem.
  • We don’t really have a large fiscal problem arising from population aging.
  • We don’t really have a large Social Security problem.
  • Virtually our entire federal fiscal problem derives from Medicare/Medicaid, the largest health care entitlements.
  • The only reason that the Medicare/Medicaid programs exhibit large fiscal problems is that they are symptoms of a larger national health care problem.
  • Hence, national health care reform is the key to fixing the government’s dire fiscal outlook.

We can thank the Democrats for blocking meaningful reform in 2005, when George Bush used up what political capital he had to push for the easier of the two reforms, Social Security.  Democrats insisted that no problem existed despite their own statements from the late 1990s when they demanded reform.  The new CBO report shows what everyone already knows: the aging of America’s population has made Medicare into a Ponzi scheme, and Social Security almost as much so.

Should we worry about health-care costs?  Certainly, but as Medicare shows, government restrictions on price are not the same thing as reducing costs.  Besides, we need to see if the fall kills us before we bother to start swimming.


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how much is this gonna cost me again?

moonbatkiller on June 30, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Nice work, Ed, as always.

Great post.

bluelightbrigade on June 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM

I’ll never understand Socialists. They don’t believe that the individual is responsible enough, or capable enough, to take care of himself/herself – so, instead, they demand that a collective of individuals nurture us, from the womb. And that we pay for the privilege.

I just don’t get it.

OhEssYouCowboys on June 30, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Soylent Green

atxcowgirl on June 30, 2009 at 3:43 PM

I figure that i’ve got 10 years to stuff the matress with dough before the crap finally hits the fan. By then a little bungalow in Rocky Point, Mexico ought to be a nice hide out as the cap-n-tax disaster drives utility rates through the roof, obamacare takes over and lines form outside hospials,the US autoindustry finalyy collapses and the US government defaults on all of it’s obligations.

Maybe the economic armageddon of 2020 won’t be so bad.

DrW on June 30, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Don’t worry about Social Security. We will all have free healthcare, free houses and free food. Why would we need money?

zmdavid on June 30, 2009 at 3:46 PM

me thinks the cliff sounds better and better….

SHARPTOOTH on June 30, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Where’s the Bolivian army when you need it?

EMD on June 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Don’t worry about Social Security. We will all have free healthcare, free houses and free food. Why would we need money?

zmdavid on June 30, 2009 at 3:46 PM

I can’t wait for individual homes to be destroyed, so that the way can be made for State issued, dingy, gray, one-room apartments. I can’t wait for the State to issue queue schedules, for luxuries like milk and bread, and a trip to see the Tech school replacement for physicians.

I can’t wait for Utopia.

OhEssYouCowboys on June 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

I’m going to fall off the grid and work the barter economy; you need your cars and machinery fixed, I will work for trade goods and food.

There just isn’t enough money in all of America to pay for Ogabe’s grand plans, plain and simple. Keeping cash in your mattress won’t save you if the cash is next to worthless.

Bishop on June 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

moonbatkiller on June 30, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Aside from the obligatory arm and leg, how about a liver, heart, lungs or any other organ those vultures can sell for a profit.

Zorg on June 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

‘contain costs’ by adding people to the program?

Is that like the mass marketer who is losing a nickel on every sale but intends to make it up on volume?

Skandia Recluse on June 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Dear Uncle Sam,

I am willing to trade your Social Security liability to me (based on actuarial tables) for 10% of that amount in cash, plus no more FICA obligations for me going forward.

ultraloser on June 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Soylent Green

atxcowgirl on June 30, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Logan’s Run

zmdavid on June 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM

ultraloser on June 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Taxed at 90%

db on June 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM

Did somebody say Bauhaus?

/Obamacare is dead.

Christien on June 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM

db on June 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM

Sorry, I’m missing your point.

ultraloser on June 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Hurry, I want it on my desk by October…

mjbrooks3 on June 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Let me see…

Economic collapse caused by SS being empty (trust fund, Are you f***ing kidding me?!?) and the Baby Boomers all retiring.

Economic collapse as Medicare and Medicaid have bills come due, which is also an empty ‘trust fund’, so all of the indigent or elderly have to die in order for the government to avoid paying the bill for their medical care.

Economic collapse as a nationalized healthcare program leads to rationing and the government must opt for killing, literally, the people who will require the more expensive procedures.

Basically, I’m thinking that Madoff’s 150 year penalty is small potatoes compared to what the dumbocrats and repugnanticans deserve for these ponzi schemes. All of the money stolen over the years needs to be accounted for and people need to be punished for their bilking of the citizens. Their names need to go down in infamy as the ones that led to the downfall of the USA and the suffering of 100s of millions. Pelosi, Reid, Obama, Stalin, Mao…all of those names go well together.

Geministorm on June 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Oh, I forgot Cap-n-tax.

We’ll be living in the stone age soon enough as no one will be able to afford any type of energy. We’ll be burning wood and feces to keep warm in 20 years.

Geministorm on June 30, 2009 at 4:02 PM

This is going to get out of hand and we will be lucky if we live through it.

PappaMac on June 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Sorry, I’m missing your point.

ultraloser on June 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Uncle Obama will let you have the 10% you are asking for, but will tax it at a rate of 90% — leaving you with just 1%.

db on June 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Boortz went off on Health Care the other day. It’s all a giant vote buying scheme.

V15J on June 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM

db on June 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Good point.

Dear Uncle Sam,

I amend my offer as follows: I am willing to trade your Social Security liability to me (based on actuarial tables) for 10% of that amount in tax free cash, plus no more FICA obligations for me going forward.

ultraloser on June 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Bishop on June 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

Besides food, water, and ammo, I’m stocking up on seeds, whiskey, smokes, toilet paper, and 75W Soft White light bulbs to barter with………

……….. Hyper-Inflation should be good for business.

Seven Percent Solution on June 30, 2009 at 4:08 PM

Where’s the Bolivian army when you need it?

EMD on June 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Do you mean the Honduran army, which ran the President out of the country/

Steve Z on June 30, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Of course tort reform and illegal immigration are no problem.

Johan Klaus on June 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

* We don’t really have a spending problem (other than on health care).
* We don’t really have an “entitlement” problem.
* We don’t really have a large fiscal problem arising from population aging.
* We don’t really have a large Social Security problem.
* Virtually our entire federal fiscal problem derives from Medicare/Medicaid, the largest health care entitlements.
* The only reason that the Medicare/Medicaid programs exhibit large fiscal problems is that they are symptoms of a larger national health care problem.
* Hence, national health care reform is the key to fixing the government’s dire fiscal outlook.

A-hah! Now I get it. Barack’s solution to the unfunded liabilities crisis is to … redefine “unfunded”, “liabilities”, and “crisis”.

Problem solved!

nukemhill on June 30, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Geministorm on June 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Yes, we are screwed.

nukemhill on June 30, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Getting along in age, I get a real creepy feeling when people start talking about the “aging population” being the real problem. Will aging be banned? Will doctors start issuing suicide pills to those over 50? Will Biden tell me that my death will be for the good of the country and therefore make me a patriot by dying? How soon before I’m told I’m selfish to want to live?

katablog.com on June 30, 2009 at 4:52 PM

Sure.

The American people have elected corrupt incompetents in numbers large enough that they control the government.

Not only do these corrupt incompetents not have the will to solve these problems, they don’t have the capacity.

Our president is unqualified. Our Speaker of the House is a serial liar and besides that, she’s a complete idiot. The Senate Majority Leader is where he’s at solely because he’s the top errand boy for the Gambino crime family.

Not to mention, the Chairman of the House Banking Committee is a corrupt incompetent who pretty much caused trillions of dollars of wealth to disappear overnight.

Expecting these jackasses to solve any problem this country faces, is akin to expecting a pig to grow wings and fly.

Not possible. Not in a million years.

NoDonkey on June 30, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Damn those Baby Boomers! Damn you to hell!!!! :)

So, when all the BBs croak and their assests are reclaimed by their heirs or collected in probate, does the problem go away? Probably not…

Wyznowski on June 30, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Getting along in age, I get a real creepy feeling when people start talking about the “aging population” being the real problem. Will aging be banned? Will doctors start issuing suicide pills to those over 50? Will Biden tell me that my death will be for the good of the country and therefore make me a patriot by dying? How soon before I’m told I’m selfish to want to live?

katablog.com on June 30, 2009 at 4:52 PM

Bingo! You’ve hit the nail on the head. One way out of under funded Social Security problems, kill off those elligible to get benefits.

Jeff from WI on June 30, 2009 at 6:05 PM

how much is this gonna cost me again?

moonbatkiller on June 30, 2009

Most likely your life.

xblade on June 30, 2009 at 6:27 PM

GOOD POST ED!

ThackerAgency on June 30, 2009 at 8:02 PM