Every year we find out the long-term insolvency projection from the Medicare Trustees, and every year we hear calls from Republicans for major changes and cuts to Medicare in response. So this week we find out that the insolvency projection has been expanded by 2 years to 2026. That’s 13 years until insolvency. That sounds bad right? Well it’s not. The historic average Medicare insolvency projection since 1980 is over 12 years. It’s been as low as 4 years and as high as 28 years during that span. So with the latest report from the Medicare Trustees, we find out the sky is not falling because the program’s insolvency projection is sitting right at it’s 30-year average.
I’m watching The Ed Show on MSNBC and the first half-hour has been all about the “fiscal cliff” (which we know is neither), and the Republican insistence that entitlement reform be part of any budget deficit deal.
The current government budget debate is an argument over pennies instead of an adult conversation over dollars. This highlights a fundamental issue that it’s near impossible for people holding temp jobs (elected officials) to solve the really big, long term problems our country faces. There is no real talk about cuts to the big entitlement programs or tax increases to help solve our budget deficit because to do so is seen as political suicide. So instead politicians go after the low hanging fruit in the hopes that the “dumb” American public will be happy that something was done. Then those politicians can run a campaign in the next election saying they cut spending and didn’t raise your taxes. The budget items being discussed don’t amount to much in the way of savings. Cutting funding to public radio (or other low hanging fruit) equates to a family debating whether they should buy a name brand product over a store brand product when instead they really should be discussing whether they need a fancy car or that expensive tropical vacation. I think the real problem is that nobody is paying attention. The average person in this country doesn’t pay very much attention to government, politicians or much of anything that they don’t perceive to have a direct and immediate impact on their lives. Politicians know this and that’s why they go after the low hanging fruit because they know that most people only hear quick sound bites and then move on. So if they can say they cut spending and didn’t raise taxes, to the average citizen that sounds like a good deal and will then reward that politician with another term. There needs to be an awakening in this country. More people need to start paying closer attention to what is actually going on in this country and in the world.