The Talking Dog

July 7, 2011, Of third rails

As the debt ceiling chicken game gets closer to the wire (four weeks from... today?), the Obama Administration now proposes significant reforms (read "cuts") to Medicare and Social Security. And even Eric Cantor seems to have "gone crazy" by considering closing tax loopholes. Desperate times/measures?

Rather than jump on the President for selling out once again, on this one, let's acknowledge that his all-compromisy "third way" may be the only way to deal with the "third rail"... as critical as I have been of the President (largely but not exclusively because he sold me out-- and many of his supporters-- on "Guantanamo" and all of the imperial police state issues related thereto, and because Team Rubin/Summers/Geithner/Bernanke are fully responsible for the economic destruction of the modern world via unregulated "derivatives" and unlimited debt expansion) and the economically naive Obama kept them on), Medicare and Social Security need reform... contrary to what we are told, Social Security is insolvent now... the so-called trust fund is, indeed, an accounting fraud.

Well then... we needn't worry too much about "the future" where only two workers must support each retiree... Social Security is insolvent now. General tax revenues subsidize the retirement program right now. Those crazies in the Tea Party, who sense "something must be done"... are right... just as, alarmingly, the only major politician (at least running for President) who happened to be right on the '08 bailout is... Michele Bachmann.

Like it or not, Social Security is going to have to be means-tested, and otherwise carefully rationed, because it is presently not sustainable. Not even close. And Medicare (and its means-tested cousin, Medicaid) will have to change.

Of course, on that, American "health care" will have to change, in a systemically integrated way, starting with miserably low quality food (which is only nominally inexpensive... it's insanely expensive counting its consequences, health, environmental, etc.), and our car-dependent life-style that, aside from its adverse environmental consequences, is also killing us. I'd like to know how our prescription drug addiction (something like 100,000 people die each year from taking prescription drugs as directed) compares to other countries... because I think the whole "micro" approach to medicine is driving the "macro" costs... and we have to consider radical change. But as with so many things, the implication that we can engage in any irresponsible lifestyle we like and then have pharmaceuticals bail us out is not only killing us, it is bankrupting our country... seems as psychically embedded as needing a car, even though that is mostly in our heads.

The President has suggested he wants to do "big things"... like it or not, restructuring (or even dramatically reducing) the signature social programs of presidents past may well be one of those "big things"... it doesn't look like there's much choice.