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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press For Fred Hiatt, the Point of "Entitlement" Reform Is to Hurt Middle Income and Moderate Income People

For Fred Hiatt, the Point of "Entitlement" Reform Is to Hurt Middle Income and Moderate Income People

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 02:32

That's what readers of his column attacking President Obama for failing to cut Medicare and Social Security would conclude. The piece includes several quotes from Obama in 2009 and 2010 about the need to slow the growth in the cost of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He then complains that Obama has not followed through by pushing for cuts in these programs.

In fact, Obama did actually propose cuts repeatedly for these programs as part of a deal with Republicans that would include more tax revenue. The Republicans have consistently rejected such a deal. However if the point was to reduce the cost growth in these programs, that has happened. In 2009 the Congressional Budget Office projected that the Medicare and Medicaid together would cost 7.0 percent of GDP in 2024. Their most recent projections show these programs costing just 6.2 percent of GDP in 2024 even with the higher Medicaid costs due to the Affordable Care Act. The savings of 0.8 percentage point of GDP would be more than $200 billion in 2024.

If the point was to save money, this would look a pretty big deal. Of course since most of these savings came from lower health care cost growth rather than reduced benefits, then it wouldn't make anyone happy whose goal was to inflict pain.

Hiatt gets a couple of other items wrong in passing. He complains:

"In 2011, Obama cold-shouldered the fiscal commission he himself had appointed; Democrats feared that embracing its recommendations could hurt in 2012."

Actually the commission made no recommendations since no report captured the necessary majority to be adopted by the commission. What is widely referred to as a report of the commission is actually the report of its co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.

The piece also refers to former Senator Max Baucus as "pro-trade." This is inaccurate. Baucus has been a consistent supporter of trade agreements. This has been true even when the deals involved increased patent and copyright right protections which reduce trade.

Comments (11)Add Comment
right wing wind
written by djb, February 25, 2014 6:02

I guess the wind is blowing right wing at the post and hiatt has to blow with it
Three Strikes and You're Out: It's About Inflicting Pain
written by Last Mover, February 25, 2014 6:41
... then it wouldn't make anyone happy whose goal was to inflict pain.

This is not just mock bemused bewilderment anymore in response to the likes of Fred Hiatt and the sock puppets, who have been beating the dead horse of Medicare and SS spending so long it comes and goes with rising and setting of the sun.

What motive could it be other than to inflict pain? The motive can't possibly be about efficiency since Medicare and SS have repeatedly demonstrated far higher returns per dollar than their private sector counterparts (read "market failure"), especially after Obamacare pulled the punch bowl of excess Medicare payments from the freeloader providers feeding at the public trough.

That leaves total spending. Is there too much spending on Medicare and SS despite being more cost effective? Do scale economies reverse at the margin to increase per unit and per capita cost? No, not that either, not even close.

That leaves debt. So it's about the impasse between no tax increase versus spending that creates excess debt ... regardless of whether the spending itself is efficient ... just pick out two large numbers in the budget and flail away on austerity grounds ... even as the deficit falls?

Strike three and you're out Hiatt. So exactly what are you and the sock puppets up to? It couldn't possibly be a sadistic motive to inflict pain could it? No way you say?

Well think of it this way. Obama is actually on your side Fred Hiatt, because he preserves the status quo as much as you do, having dropped his laudable goals as all good politicians do in America once elected.

That way you get to flail Obama with fake blows about the head as the willing fall guy on a daily basis - not for what he originally stood for like single payer - but on what he was forced to accept after joining up with the economic predators who run the country ... like reducing the growth of Medicare rather than switching to single payer for the entire nation.

Talk about inflicting pain from both sides of aisle. What better example than to kill single payer outright as a laudable goal of Obama that would have brought the same or superior benefits for less than half the cost ... then have sock puppets like Hiatt beat Obama about the head for not keeping his promise to reduce the growth in Medicare and SS.

Inflicting pain? How about inflicting shorter lifespans and worse healthcare outcomes onto America compared to other developed countries, for the pleasure of charging over twice as much to attain these laudable goals?

But Fred Hiatt and the sock puppets won't talk about single payer will they, so how could they possibly be inflicting pain?
written by sherparick, February 25, 2014 7:50
There is a logic on their willingness to inflict pain. They think everyone should work until they drop, they want the fate of those who don't work to be as miserable and desperate as possible to encourage folks to keep working to the very end, since work and savings "boost" the economy. As the freakonomic guys say, it is all about incentives.

Matt Yglesias probably captures Fred Hiatt and his ilk real views on Social Security in this column a few months back. http://www.slate.com/blogs/mon...s_why.html

written by Alex Bollinger, February 25, 2014 8:04
What are the chances that Hiatt has no idea that the projected costs of medicare & medicaid have gone down?

Not saying that he isn't heartless, just that we shouldn't rule out incompetence and laziness either.
written by skeptonomist, February 25, 2014 8:17
No, Hyatt and other SS bashers are not motivated by trying to cause pain, they are trying to avoid pain to themselves in the form of higher taxes. The SS Trust fund represents almost $2.7T that is owed to boomers and others who will retire in the next 30 years. This has to be paid for with income taxes, not payroll taxes, and the high-income people that the editorial page of the WaPo represents want to reduce that burden as much as possible. With a Democratic President in office they also ostensibly oppose increasing deficits, so they will try to get SS payments cut down as much as possible.

If current and future retirees understand who that money belongs to - they have paid it into the system with their payroll taxes - they will oppose cutting on the pretext that the system has to be "saved".
djb, Fred Hiatt has ALWAYS been a right wing fluffer
written by ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©, February 25, 2014 10:15
Before the War Criminal Post hired him, he worked at the Washington Star.

P.S. Back when I was a kid, I had a Washington Star paper route.
Propaganda is powerful
written by Dave, February 25, 2014 11:27
If you can put "Free Trade" in the name of an agreement that has nothing to do with free trade, you can pass anything by our congress and our old voting pool. Perhaps the voting pool is beginning to wise up a bit. I think the Democratic leaders are beginning to listen to the more vocal of the voting pool, and this is a very good sign.

If people don't pay attention, we could wind up with a "Free Trade" amendment to the constitution. The thing is, treaties carry much the same power as constitutional amendments to the common people, and even though this might sound like a tea bagger argument, it is true. Treaties need to be watched very carefully. Never should a treaty be fast tracked. I shutter to understand how Obama has come to get behind such an idea.

Alas ...
written by Squeezed Turnip, February 25, 2014 4:56
alas, the pain inflicted by Hiatt and the like is not covered by Medicare, but the pain is actually just a part of the cost of having Obamacare instead of a single-payer system, an option forced upon us by stooges like Hiatt.
Do Something
written by James, February 26, 2014 1:28
Thx for putting Guidestar & Charity Navigator on your site to allow us to validate CEPR or any other grps.

Yes, all of us should support you. Is it true the Guidestar said your 2012 revenue totaled only $1.2 million and suffered a shortfall of close to $700K. Wow.

The notion that 7 per cent of GDP ...
written by John Puma, February 26, 2014 1:37
might be too much for an allegedly wealthy nation to spend on the health care of its citizens is patently absurd on its face.

A great deal of huffing and puffing is done regarding the of the SocSec and Medicare trust funds. So what that there are projected budget "difficulties" ... no sooner than after ten years?

The general budget runs a deficit EVERY year. SocSec & Medicare should be hailed as examples of rousing successes by the austerity hawks.
The ACA is a semi-regressive tax, a burden on young people of limited means
written by Rachel, February 27, 2014 11:57

Also a burden on many not-so-young but healthy people, if of limited means, who would not have chosen to contribute to the excess profits of the health care system. Also a burden on many unhealthy people, for whom the health care system is unresponsive or discriminatory.

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About Beat the Press

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.