Kuttner: Disarm Deficit Hawks w/Universal Healthcare
by bobswern, Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 09:41:55 PM EST
In today's Washington Post, public policy wonk Robert Kuttner, who's also co-editor of American Prospect Magazine and the author of "Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency," tells us about "The Deficit Hawks' Attack on Our Entitlements."
This snippet pretty much sums up his thoughts today:
...The economy we bequeath to our children has everything to do with getting growth back on track and almost nothing to do with imagined future deficits.
History provides a parallel. At the end of World War II, the public debt was about 120 percent of GDP -- about three times today's ratio. Yet the heavily indebted wartime economy stimulated a quarter-century postwar boom -- because all that debt went to recapitalize American industry, advance science and technology, retrain our unemployed and put them to work.
We need to increase public spending and debt now to restore economic growth and then gradually reduce the debt ratio once recovery comes. Social Security has little to do with this challenge. Nor does Medicare, if we reform our overall health system.
Kuttner gives us an account of machinations today in the White House with regard to President Obama's "Fiscal Responsibility Summit." Apparently, as Kuttner narrates it, the event was trimmed down to a half-day affair from its original full-day agenda due to skepticism expressed by Democratic congressional leaders.
Clearly, that skepticism was aimed squarely at conservative GOP'ers, and Kuttner also singles out another target of these skeptics: Blue Dog "Deficit Hawks" (i.e.: those leading the "sky-is-falling" meme within our own party with regard to "mortgaging our children's future"); he specifically mentioned House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina and his alter ego in the Senate, Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Kuttner commenting about their ilk's decade's long, idiotic rants regarding entitlement program spending being the reason for impending U.S. financial gloom and doom...
...when the crash came, the cause was not deficits but wild speculation on Wall Street.
Why perversely cut these programs to pay for the sins of Wall Street? The attack on social insurance is really an ideological assault, dressed up as fiscal high-mindedness...
In closing, Kuttner tacitly asks the question: "Exactly who are the idiots here?"
...[Social Security and Medicare] face very different challenges and remedies. Social Security's accounts are actually near long-term balance. The Congressional Budget Office puts the 75-year shortfall at only about one-third of 1 percent of projected gross domestic product...
...Medicare really does face big deficits. But that's because Medicare is part of a hugely inefficient, fragmented health insurance system...
...The decent cure for Medicare's cost inflation lies in comprehensive universal health insurance so that the entire system is more efficient and less prone to inflation. You don't hear many budget hawks supporting that brand of reform.
Bob Kuttner rocks!
Tags: Blue Dogs, Democrats, depression, Economy, entitlement spending, entitlements, health insurance, Medicare, President Barack Obama, Recession, Robert Kuttner, Social Security, U.S. budget deficits, universal healthcare, White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit (all tags)