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Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 189 -- Hurricane "Medicare."

Medicare Spending & Surpluses-

The Wall Street Journal's Brendan Miniter:

Even with scrutiny it's more likely than not that the cost of "entitlement" programs--Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the like--will continue to grow apace and consume ever larger portions of the budget. Eventually Congress will have to face one of two options: fundamentally reform entitlement programs or hike taxes. It appeared to many conservatives that we had reached that point when Treasury Secretary John Snow declared after Katrina that renewing some of the Bush tax cuts would probably have to wait.

Conservatives are noticeably frustrated with Republicans in Congress because there appears to be no plan on the table or even under development to head off such an entitlement driven eventuality. Earlier this year, Congress passed up its best opportunity in a generation to reform Social Security. There's little dispute on the right that private accounts would have relieved taxpayers of billions of dollars in liabilities in the coming decades, but Republicans in Congress blinked. Even the House plan to put "surplus" Social Security dollars--those paid into the system now that aren't used to pay benefits--into private accounts isn't going anywhere because of a lack of interest in the Senate. On Medicare and Medicaid a few modest reforms have been put on the table, while a massive new federal Medicare drug benefit has been created.

Count me as one of those frustrated conservatives. But I am also somewhat frustrated with certain fellow conservatives (bloggers included) who gave up on Social Security reform early on.

If right-of-center bloggers, columnists, and members of Congress had committed a fraction of the time and energy they spent on silliness toward Social Security reform instead, we may have seen a meaningful reform package we could now build upon. We may have developed a model for reform of Medicare, for example.

But no.

In my quest to get Americans to understand the how and why of government spending, I've often noted that demographics favored lower spending in the late 1990s.

Here's what I mean:


Notice how Medicare spending growth sort of stalled out at the same time that the federal government ran budget surpluses. In 1999, there was even a rare contraction in spending on Medicare.

It wasn't an accident. It was the same deal with other entitlement programs.


Temporarily, in the late 1990s, there was a lull in the growth of new retirees. But it was the calm before the storm. Right now, we've got the bands of the Baby Boom storm just barely beginning to batter us.

The eye lurks just offshore.

If we do nothing, it won't be pretty.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Housing Bubble.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 October 2005 11:21 AM


I don't think people have given up the idea of Social Security Reform. I think they are tired of waiting on Congress and the rest of the LOSERS we have sent to Washington DC to get it done!...?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 18, 2005 11:48 AM

Saw your post on a day in the life of a blogger. I am not sure if you were kidding about the Instavalanch but all it takes for the real thing is to volunteer to host one of the carnivals.
Jimmy K

Posted by: Jimmy K at October 18, 2005 11:24 PM

I want my private social security account, dammit!

The biggest mistake conservatives made, in my opinion, was caving in and giving up on this concept.

All conservatives that I have spoke to about private accounts were drooling over the idea - it really gave the idea of reform a boost and got people's interest in it going.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at October 19, 2005 02:30 AM

I do to! ... Dag nab it! I think it is almost to late ! Do you know how long people have been talking about this?... I think the politicians ignore this issue because they really could care less about it because they have such a great retirement set up for themselves!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 20, 2005 07:28 AM