An Intent to Drive Medicare Into Insolvency?

Sep 7, 2010   //   Healthcare

I issued the following letter to the NY Times earlier this year in response to a column written by Dr. Paul Krugman (a US Nobel Laureate in Economics out of Princeton University) entitled ‘Republicans and Medicare’ (ref).  I added the following thoughts. In 2000 we had the largest paydown of federal debt in US history, the ability to completely payoff our public debt by 2009, and balanced the books without borrowing from the Medicare Trust Fund; our National Debt Clock was actually discontinued/turned-off after three consecutive years of debt reduction.  An old saying is ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and it has also been said that a definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and expecting a different outcome.  So, a nagging question for me has been why we returned in 2001 to the same tax cut/economic policies that had a documented history of quadrupling our national debt during the 1980’s and early 1990’s (while heavily favoring the wealthiest in our country) and then additionally piled an unfunded Medicare program (Part D) onto that debt in advance of the baby boomer retirement wave.  In 2005 this country had a then record deficit of over a half trillion dollars all attributable to legislation enacted since 2001; without those changes it has been estimated that the country would have had a surplus that year.  The Republican Party has long opposed Medicare and Social Security and has sought to privatize them, but these programs remain popular with the US public.  So, without having to take the publicly unpopular stance of turning these programs over to private business, would not an easier route be to first drive them into insolvency and engage in the typical political game of finger pointing?  I believe, as stated in the letter below, that the Republican leadership owes the American public an explanation as to the changes that were made in 2001.


Submitted to NY Times as a letter on 2/13/2010 (11:18AM)

Referenced NY Times Article: Republicans and Medicare, Paul Krugman, 02/11/2010

Proposed Title: The Intent to Bankrupt Medicare

Dr. Krugman’s points are well taken regarding the Republican effort to dismantle Medicare.  By 2000 our country developed budget surpluses and balanced the books without borrowing from the Medicare Trust Fund.  Why then in 2001 revert to tax cut policies with a history of producing deficits that were paid for, in part, by depleting our entitlement coffers?  Why add trillions of dollars into our unfunded future obligations with a Medicare prescription drug plan in advance of the baby-boomers retirement?  Why is there no Republican support for the Senate Healthcare reform plan that reduces long-term debt when the legislation excludes the public option and an expansion of Medicare to age 55 (both objectionable to the Republicans) and yet contains the three top Republican priorities defined by John Boehner; the exchange, competition across state lines, and the ability of states to opt out?  From a fiscal perspective these actions are historically so un-Republican that they defy logic.  Unless there is an intent to privatize our entitlement programs by first plowing them into insolvency?   Words are words, but actions are actions. The Republican leadership owes the American public an explanation.

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