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Brooks Bemoans the Lack of a Free Lunch for Representative Ryan

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Friday, 15 April 2011 04:05

That would be at the White House of course. Brooks is upset that:

"It is sad, although not strange, that in today’s Washington they have never had a serious private conversation. The president has never invited Ryan over even for lunch."

Brooks goes on to tell us five things that Ryan "believes" that Obama does not.

"First, he believes that aging populations, expensive new health care technologies and the extravagant political promises have made the current welfare state model unsustainable. Fundamental reform is necessary or the whole thing will collapse, here and in Europe.

Second, he believes that seniors and the middle class cannot be excused from the benefit cuts that will have to be imposed to rebalance these systems. Third, he believes that health care costs will not be brought under control until consumers take responsibility for their decisions and providers have market-based incentives to reduce prices.

Fourth, he believes that tax increases should not be part of these reforms because the economic costs outweigh the gains. Fifth, he does not believe government can nurture growth and reduce wage stagnation with targeted investments."

 

Let's look at some of these points more closely.

Number one is certainly a very peculiar belief given the fact that Japan and most countries in Europe in have much older populations than the U.S. and are still showing comparable rates of productivity growth. It would be interesting to know what sort of timeline he envisions for this scenario since it would take many decades for the age composition of the United States population to catch up to its older neighbors, all of whom continue to see growing economies.

The second belief only makes sense if the first one is true, which the evidence in the world does not support in any obvious way.

The third belief is contradicted by the experience of the dozens of countries who have comparable quality health care systems to the United States and pay less than half as much per person. Most, if not all, of them rely less on co-payments and other patient contributions than the United States. It is also worth noting that if the United States had the same per person health care costs as any other wealthy country, it would be looking at huge budget surpluses rather than deficits.

The fourth belief assumes that there are no areas where the government can possibly do things better than the market. Ryan and Brooks may not understand this point, so I will explain.

If the government can provide a service like health care insurance or retirement pensions more efficiently than the private sector, as a vast body of evidence suggests, then it means that we would either want higher taxes or a less efficient economy. It does appear that Ryan would prefer the latter. His Medicare proposal would add more than $30 trillion to the country's health care costs over Medicare's 75-year planning period. This amount, which reflects the pure increase in costs, not the shift from the government to beneficiaries, is almost 6 times the projected shortfall in the Social Security program.

The fifth point seems to imply that Ryan thinks that in 2011 we have somehow stumbled on the optimal level of government support for infrastructure, education, and research and development. I suppose God may have spoken to Representative Ryan, but the rest of us might view the optimal degree of government support as a matter to be determined by evidence at each point in time. This means the level could be very different in 1961, 2011, and 2041 depending on the possibilities available.

As Brooks has described Representative Ryan's positions, it seems that the Congressman holds many views that are contradicted by a vast body of evidence. Representative Ryan may be a very nice guy (I met him once in his district where we debated Social Security privatization. He seemed nice enough.), but do we really think it's important for President Obama to spend his time and the taxpayers' money having lunch with someone who is so out of touch with reality?

Comments (16)Add Comment
...
written by foosion, April 15, 2011 5:26
>>do we really think it's important for President Obama to spend his time and the taxpayers' money having lunch with someone who is so out of touch with reality?>>

This is just the inanity of the pundit-ocracy. One essential tenet is that our problems stem from not having lunch with each other rather than that some people are insane. It's a focus on process rather than substance.

On the other hand, if Obama insisted on only meeting with rational people, he'd be rather lonely in contemporary Washington.

Let's keep the message simple: Ryan wants to take away your Medicare and give the money to rich people. Remember that the pundit-ocracy has trouble with complex messages.
Third Commandment:Thou Shall Have No Other Competitors Before Me
written by izzatzo, April 15, 2011 6:53
Third, he believes that health care costs will not be brought under control until consumers take responsibility for their decisions and providers have market-based incentives to reduce prices.


This belief drives the other beliefs listed by Brooks on Ryan. It represents the belief that free markets and competition have been replaced by government power - not the private market power that has eroded and destroyed free markets, free choice and effective competition.

Also known as the Free Market Trinity, it means under the Father, the Son (or Ayn Rand the Daughter) and the Holy Spirit, effective competition is replaced by 'consumer responsibility and market-based incentives that 'control' markets.

Under the Trinity one doesn't need more than one oppressive insurer or health provider from the private sector to accept the exploitation of market power.

All that's required is a Belief Voucher from the demand side that individual responsibility and control will rise above the massive failure of free markets and provide effective choices from the supply side based on faith alone.
Hospitals and doctors take advantage of our lack of choices and information
written by Rachel, April 15, 2011 6:59

In northern California, most people don't even know why health prices are going up so fast. We are afflicted with both very powerful hospital chains, and a privledged class, on the boards of the supposed "non-profits," and in the media, that seems to think that constantly inflating health costs are only natural.

I don't like Ryan's plan, but it is true that if Medicare patients could make better-informed choices and had more freedom than they are currently allowed, prices might not go up so fast. We might not be suffering quite as much economic damage as we are now.
...
written by liberal, April 15, 2011 7:50
Rachel wrote,
I don't like Ryan's plan, but it is true that if Medicare patients could make better-informed choices and had more freedom than they are currently allowed, prices might not go up so fast.


This simply isn't true. There's no evidence at all that consumers are able to make health care choices that are rational and cost efficient.

Examples:
* People purchasing homeopathic medicines, when the principles behind homeopathy are wildly inconsistent with our knowledge of physics and chemistry
* Patients insisting on receiving antibiotics for infections that are almost certainly viral
* Cancer patients demanding highly costly, toxic treatments that afford little or no extra life-years
...
written by joe, April 15, 2011 8:42
LMFAO @ "tax increases should not be part of these reforms because the economic costs outweigh the gains."

Ryan won't consider tax increases because Grover Norquist will ruin his political career if he even entertains the idea. There has been no cost benefit analysis. Under the Clinton rates, real per capita GDP grew 2.2% a year. Under the Bush tax rates real per capita GDP has grown .65% a year. There is no data to support the claim that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire is going to restrict growth.
...
written by Bart, April 15, 2011 9:29
"...tax increases should not be part of these reforms because the economic costs outweigh the gains..."

We had two Bush terms under large tax cuts and created record undergrowth in jobs, whereas under Clinton's level of taxes we did great.
...
written by Nylund, April 15, 2011 9:37
Second, he believes that seniors and the middle class cannot be excused from the benefit cuts that will have to be imposed to rebalance these systems.


Actually, Ryan is indeed excusing every single senior in America from any benefit cuts. Future seniors may be a different story, but Ryan isn't "courageous" enough to force this hardship on any of today's seniors. And for all Brook's talk of shared sacrifice, what's his? A tax cut? I hope that hardship doesn't overwhelm him.
Maybe they'll have lunch ...
written by Mark D, April 15, 2011 10:20
... at the Applebee's salad bar.

More seriously, the fact tax increases are always out of the question shows just how vastly and absurdly unserious Brooks, Ryan, and about 99% of the GOP (and 50% of Dems, apparently) truly are when it comes to tackling debt and deficits.

They always compare the fed budget to a family budget -- but their solution to a family budget crisis would be to increase the amount spent on guns and ammo, forgo any type of continuing education or job training, pray that you do not get sick, and then voluntarily reduce the hours and/or pay you receive since that'd free up more time to do productive things!

I mean, really. It's abhorrent people like Brooks see a budget that intentionally inflicts suffering the least powerful in order to reward the most powerful as some sort of groundbreaking moment in our nation's history.

In reality, it's a testament to just how morally, intellectually, and ideologically bankrupt the right has become. And that's simply not good for our country.
...
written by Deb Schultz, April 15, 2011 10:29
So now Medicare is 'the current welfare state'. As though people haven't been paying 2.9 percent of their wages into it and then pay a monthly premium for the rest of their lives after turning 65 for Part B. Yes, it's true that general revenue picks up the remainder of the costs and those costs are growing. But I think a significant portion of those growing costs are due to Medicare Advantage and to Part D, which has a government subsidy of private insurance premiums. Getting rid of the private insurers would almost certainly make Medicare a better deal.

As for the sanctimonius tut-tutting over how seniors and middle-class citizens have to start limiting their benefit coverage, where were Brooks and Ryan when Medicare approved Provenge treatment? Will they have the genuine courage to name those benefits and procedures which should be curtailed or drastically limited?
...
written by liberal, April 15, 2011 12:12
Mark D wrote,
It's abhorrent people like Brooks see a budget that intentionally inflicts suffering the least powerful in order to reward the most powerful as some sort of groundbreaking moment in our nation's history.


It is groundbreaking, insofar as it's big progress in the program to turn the US into a Latin America-style banana republic.
...
written by liberal, April 15, 2011 12:14
Deb Schultz wrote,
As for the sanctimonius tut-tutting over how seniors and middle-class citizens have to start limiting their benefit coverage, where were Brooks and Ryan when Medicare approved Provenge treatment?


Excellent point.
...
written by Dan K, April 15, 2011 12:18
"The president has never invited Ryan over even for lunch."
Perhaps Obama's advisors felt that having both of those pairs of ears in the same room at the same time could possibly cause extensive damage to the White House bric-a-brac...
...
written by Dom, April 15, 2011 5:03
A grudge over food is deeper than the ocean..."I should've been invited to lunch", Ryan says.
...
written by Daddy Love, April 15, 2011 5:10
Until more of our sick people die instead of being treated we will NEVER get costs under control!
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written by Daddy Love, April 15, 2011 5:12
Family budget: When the kids get sick, you PAY THE DOCTOR TO TREAT THEM. You don't let them die because it's cheaper.
...
written by kharris, April 18, 2011 10:00
I take it, then, based on the points our host has ticked off, that the Brooks piece is highly favorable toward Obama, since he does not believe a bunch of untrue things that Ryan does believe. Yes?

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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