Saturday :: Aug 13, 2011

"We Can't Afford TO LOSE Social Security and Medicare"


by Mary

Jared Bernstein has put together a post on the talking points to use at the family summer gatherings when your brother-in-law starts to spout right-wing arguments about the economy. I particularly liked his bit on why we must support Social Security and Medicare.

We can’t afford Medicare, Social Security: This is a toxic one, because even libs are getting squishy on it. But it’s flat out wrong.

Start out with a counterpunch: we can’t afford TO LOSE Social Security and Medicare.

Peruse the group— and ask them: “Do you feel more secure or less secure about your retirement, cuz if it’s “less” then you want these programs to be strong and healthy. Social Security will soon be the only guaranteed pension on the block, and Medicare provides guaranteed health security, and by the way, does so at a better price than private sector alternatives.”

Score for you…but bro-in-law punches back: sure, they’re great, but you’re missing my point: we can’t afford them anymore!

“Says who?” you say. When people say we can’t afford something in this context, what they’re really saying is I’d rather pay for X than Y. This is the fundamental concept of “opportunity costs,” one of the most important concepts in economics, as it incorporates the reality of scarcity, which is what makes economics tick.

Here’s a great example: we could fully cover the shortfall in Social Security, by using the revenue we’d get from the expiration of the highend Bush tax cuts. Not even all the cuts, just the highend ones.

Paying for Medicare is a bigger challenge, but here, the problem isn’t Medicare, it’s health care, meaning cost growth across the whole system, private and public, is too high. And, like I said, and this is an important arguing point, it’s considerable worse on the private side.

Point out that Medicare does a better job of controlling costs because it has less overhead, doesn’t need to gouge profits out of sick people or spend a lot of money hiring people whose job it is to get between you and the care you seek.

Note that every other country has some sort of universal coverage that goes considerably further than Medicare, covering everyone for about half of what we spend as share of our economy. And they do so while generating health outcomes that are at least as good, if not better, than ours.

Ask your brother-in-law whether he’s saying that France can take care of its people better than America! Get pissed off about this!

Finish with a flourish, asserting that there’s no alternative— we either figure out how to pay for the health care we need, or we end up the only advanced economy in the world who has continuously failed to do so. And you happen to believe in an America that guarantees health security for retirees, like Grams over there.

Nice.

Mary :: 12:37 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!