Tuesday, March 29, 2005

FICA reform...Buh-Bye

From Weisman, the Washington Post, quoting Tyler Cowen of George Mason University (and others)...

For several months, the White House has had to contend with some private-accounts supporters who argue that Bush's plan is far too timid. Now, the administration must confront a new group arguing the proposal represents an unwise expansion of Social Security's promises.

"I think there was a kind of notional support among right-wing or free-market intellectuals," said Cowen, "but now they're getting nervous. Even if they're not speaking out, they just figure it will die on the vine."

Abraham Lincoln said it best:

You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

* * * *

Medicare, however, is another issue.
Matthew Yglesias puts the political challenge into a tight little nutshell.

Medicare masochism is basically a manifestation of intellectual laziness combined with callousness. Medicare policy is extremely complicated. Our health care system is messed up in a large number of ways, and Medicare has many design problems that lead spending to be higher than it needs to be. But Medicare policy is not only complicated, and difficult, but deadly boring. Devising a workable proposal that would control spiraling costs in a smart way would be very hard. In fact, it would be beyond the capacity of pretty much every pundit in town. Indeed, I doubt that 85 percent of the bloviators out there could even comprehend a reasonable proposal if it was put before them. 90 percent of the remainder are simply too lazy to do it. Politicians fail to implement such reforms for a bunch of reasons, but one important reason among them is that it's genuinely hard to figure out what we should do. Rather than acknowledge any of this, however, the opinion elite prefers to simply call for "courage" and "pain." And, of course, pure willpower can cut costs easily enough by simply shifting costs onto patients. But this doesn't actually solve anything. It'll be almost as large a drag on the economy and it'll get people killed.

What's needed are actual solutions -- efforts, for example, to end the supply-driven element of Medicare spending -- that will reduce the cost of care, not simply shift that cost around. But we'll never get even close to having such solutions available until the pain caucus shuts up for a few years about the courage and starts opening up column inches for people who actually know what they're talking about to put some ideas forward.

GB Shaw said something about fighting a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
Matthew is, in this case, fighting an entire army of mostly unarmed men (and women).

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