The leaders both of the Democratic Party and the GOP obfuscate as best they can about the future of Medicare in the United States. They do so because they each fear that telling the truth will cost their Party the votes of senior citizens in the November 2012 elections.
The harsh economic truth is that federal outlays on Medicare are currently on an unsustainable path. Today they account for some 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product. As the baby boomers retire, these costs will rise relative to the economy by some thirty percent, lifting Medicare outlays to some 5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020.
What is unsustainable will not happen. So per capita federal outlays on Medicare assuredly will decline over the coming eight years. This decline will not be passed down exclusively to future retirees. It will quickly impact the present as well as the future. Now not all seniors understand this unpleasant arithmetic – there is a great deal of stupidity in any nation – but many undoubtedly do so.
How those seniors with functioning brains respond to this reality will determine the economic future of the United States. If they press narrow self-interest over the well-being of the future generations – their own children and grandchildren – they may be able to drag out reforms until economic Armageddon imposes its will upon the nation. By ramping up the federal debt and paralyzing entrepreneurship they will lie comfortably in their hospital beds while their offspring stand forlornly in ever-expanding dole lines.
Somehow, however, that does not seem to me to square with the American way. Most, though surely not all, American adults care about their offspring more than they care about themselves. In such circumstances, sacrifices will be made, once the options are fully outlined for their consideration.
The President is the person on whose shoulders the relaying of unpleasant arithmetic morally should fall. President Obama has no shoulders for such a responsibility, apparently no moral integrity for such a task. But that will not make the Medicare problem disappear. It will simply fester and infect the economy as the disease metastasizes, thereby rendering the eventual surgery much more problematic for the future good health of the nation.