A Pivotal Election
It is good to hear that Mr. Daniel Solomon will be voting for the first time in next year’s election. Too often these days, one hears about the disaffected and self-absorbed younger crowd which is too concerned with tweeting and text messaging to get involved in the serious political matters which face this nation (notwithstanding the current predicament which faces our own Congressman).
In his letter (6/10/11) he accuses me of lying in my assessment of the proposals currently on the table for Medicare. I’m afraid, however, that Mr. Solomon’s youth is no excuse for a lack of objectivity in the matter. Perhaps by reading the actual report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) he will have enough time to convince himself by next year’s presidential election that Medicare as a program will not be ended by Republicans but by cold economic reality in six years and that Medicaid funding as it stands is unsustainable as well. My facts can easily be verified by anyone with access to a computer.
I have written extensively in The Wave about the issue of Medicare/ Medicaid insolvency from the perspective of a doctor who has worked on the front lines of healthcare for the needy in New York City for nearly two decades.
I have given my opinions at length (available in The Wave archives) including what needs to be done to avoid insolvency. Namely: a wholesale restructuring of the way we view our healthcare needs, tort law reform, improved interstate insurance competition, malpractice insurance reform and incentivizing good health on the part of the consumer as opposed to creating a fund with “limitless” dollars. I happen to believe, as increasing numbers of doctors and economists do, that the Healthcare Reform Act (Obama- Care) is the wrong prescription. Why? Because of cold economic reality once again: by placing a massive entitlement program within the framework of a free market system you will end up with bankruptcy. They are two systems inherently at odds.
What about Socialism, many students will say, because of course it is always easier to take the perceived moral high ground and set the argument up as one of class warfare as opposed to accountability.
In response, I always say those words I learned in my seventh grade history class; “...those who would ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.” I will give the examples of the failure of the Soviet Union, Maoist China, Cuba and most recently the problems in the European Union which struggles to hold on to its semi-socialized system amid rising debt crises.
Our own President Obama faces very difficult realities, some of which are outside of his influence. First and foremost is our national debt which is $14.5 Trillion and growing, next is our yearly government budget deficit which is now more than $1.5 Trillion per annum with similar projections for the years ahead (we are spending 1.5 Trillion dollars more than we take in with taxes yearly!). We could just tax more, some say, ignoring the withering effect that would have on jobs creation with real unemployment estimated today at more than 16 percent.
We could say these are all just numbers and just keep printing more dollars as we have been doing to pay for programs which we cannot afford. The problem is, the rest of the world is watching. China, which holds much of our debt, by actually buying our bonds is now getting weary of lending us money. International agencies like Standard and Poor’s are, for the first time, downgrading our dollar’s value which means that the rest of the world may not like the dollar as much as they used to and oh by the way, Mr. Solomon, there goes Grandma’s life savings.
The International Monetary Fund is considering a new reserve currency and competitor nations like China, Brazil, Russia and India are considering changing their reserves out of dollars and into other forms of wealth like Gold, Silver or other currencies.
I would ask Mr. Solomon if he thinks I’m lying to him when he sees the news about rioting in Greece over these same issues? When he reads about the Spanish economy on the brink of sinking the Euro due to unfunded liabilities similar to what we are facing here in the USA?
The fact remains that the CBO estimate for Medicare insolvency, the date on which the federal government has no further revenue to meet the financial demands of the program, is 2017. In fact, last year was the first year in which the Medicare program ran a deficit, taking in less revenue than it was paying out.
Republicans are actually taking the lead on this issue by making a proposal to save the idea of Medicare for those, like myself, who have no hope of receiving it once it goes bankrupt in 6 years, while leaving the program intact for those already in the program.
Democrats, including our President, seem to be taking a “lead from behind” approach to the matter by using the very mention of the economic realities as a scare tactic for political gain in upcoming elections while continuing to believe that simply printing more trillions and sinking the value our savings will be a viable solution.
Next year’s election will be a pivotal one, Mr. Solomon. Framing the argument as one of class warfare will do nothing to improve our society, it will only debase the common discourse. I do hope you will realize by then that numbers simply don’t lie.
DR. HAROLD PAEZ