Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles Calls for Cutting Social Security and Medicare

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Sunday, 02 October 2011 09:05

Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles, along with his sidekick former Senator Alan Simpson, once again used the Washington Post oped page to call for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The two made the call in the context of a piece urging the congressional "supercommittee" to produce a large deficit reduction package.

They argued that it was necessary for cuts in "entitlements" to be part of any deficit package. "Entitlements" is the preferred euphemism for Social Security and Medicare for people who want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

It is once again interesting to note that in a call for shared sacrifice, Bowles and Simpson once again never mention the possibility of financial speculation tax (FST), which could raise over $1.5 trillion over the course of the next decade. Such a tax has been used in the UK for centuries and a proposal for such a tax has recently been put forward by the European Commission. It is remarkable that the elite political figures in the United States show so little interest in an FST.

The Bowles-Simpson piece also includes a bizarre criticism of President Obama's deficit reduction proposal complaining that:

"while it does (barely) stabilize the debt, it does so at a dangerously high level and with no margin for error."

Since Congress approves budgets every single year, and often makes major budget adjustments between budgets, it is not clear why Bowles and Simpson think they mean by "with no margin for error." If a budget plan approved by the current Congress fails to meet deficit targets for budgets 8-10 years in the future, Congress will have plenty of time to make whatever adjustments it views as necessary.

Of course as every budget analyst knows, the whole long-term budget problem is the result of our broken health care system. If the United States paid a comparable amount per person for its health care as people do in any other wealthy country, we would be looking at huge surpluses, not deficit. This point is rarely mentioned by Bowles and Simpson.