CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NPR Gives Mara Liasson Segment to Lobby for Cuts in Medicare and Social Security

NPR Gives Mara Liasson Segment to Lobby for Cuts in Medicare and Social Security

Thursday, 18 November 2010 05:22

NPR departed from normal journalistic standards this morning when it gave a reporter the opportunity to present her opinions on dealing with the deficit as facts to its listeners. Mara Liasson told listeners that it is not possible to address the deficit while leaving any specific area untouched. She included Medicare and Social Security on this list. 

Her statement is of course not true, as many people have shown that it easy to meet deficit targets without touching Social Security. In fact, on Tuesday, Representative Jan Schakowsky, a member of the President's deficit commission, laid out a plan for meeting the commission's deficit target that did not touch Social Security or Medicare. Ms. Liasson may not like Representative Schakowsky's proposal, but it is dishonest journalism to deny that a plan like this exists.

It is also easy to show that the deficit is first and foremost the result of our broken health care system. The country currently pays more than twice as much per person for health care as people in other wealthy countries. This ratio is projected to rise to three and four to one in the decades ahead.

If these projections for health care prove accurate then it will devastate our economy regardless of what we do with the budget deficit. On the other hand, if our health care costs are brought in line with costs in the rest of the world, then the country does not face a long-term deficit problem. Honest reporting on the deficit would point out this simple fact.

Comments (19)Add Comment
The Free Lunch Nanny Strikes Out Again
written by izzatzo, November 18, 2010 5:35
You just don't get it Mr Free Lunch Nanny. The party's over. The socialists are on the run. The tax and spend monster has come home to roost and it's not going away until fulfilled with repayment for the over extension of moral hazard gratitude to freeloaders by the government.

Debt cannot be the gift that keeps on giving, because in the end it keeps on taking instead. It's not sustainable. The very economic existence of the USA is at stake.

Any economist, not to mention NPR, understands that scarcity and trade offs are the reason there is no free lunch. There is no such thing as zero opporunity cost. Every dollar of debt incurred for a freeloader in one place is a liability to someone somewhere in an another place, no matter where it lands.

At least NPR has the will and fortitude to report the obvious truth to anyone who can add and subtract from the economic pie, despite the feedback of hateful vile from freeloaders living off the gravy train of debt financed welfare.

Shame Mr Nanny. Stop selling the free lunches. Stop protecting the freeloaders. Share the sacrifice. Listen to NPR. You might learn something about trade offs and scarcity.
written by DakotabornKansan, November 18, 2010 6:30
izzatzo: Stop selling the free lunches. Stop protecting the freeloaders.

"Hang! Beg! Starve! Die in the streets!" - Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

"His guts [izzatzo's] are made of puddings." - Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor

Politics (Not Policy) Reporting
written by bakho, November 18, 2010 6:33
Liasson is hired to report GOP/Fox talking points.

Liasson is NOT hired to report the facts and inform listeners about policy.

Liasson is a POLITICAL reporter, not a POLICY reporter. This distinction is a green light to deliver political spins on air that are meant as disinformation and are not true.
Liasson only knows talking points. Liasson is a policy Know-Nothing.

Discriminating listeners switch stations when she is on.
written by Robert Baillie, November 18, 2010 7:57
Dean Baker is right.

The chart here
shows that Social Security will increase only a little, as a percentage of GDP.
written by izzatzo, November 18, 2010 7:58
Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan doth oft lose both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

William Shakespeare
Polonius, Hamlet, Act I, Scene ii
Thanks Dean for noting that it is costs, not funding of health care
written by pete, November 18, 2010 9:53
Costs are high since there is no skin in the game for the user. Consider health care where there is skin in the game, like dental, plastic surgery, lasix eye surgery, etc. Here costs have fallen dramatically.
Health care, as an investment in human capital, has a high income elasticity. We want to spend more...demand is ultimately almost infinite, since zero health care=>death. Hence, with rising incomes, health care should consume an ever larger part of the expenditures. But more skin in the game, like the "evil" Whole Foods plan, can keep costs down. Of course the SEIU and the AMA might not like that....$40,000 GDP per capita,and what, $6,000 health care. So when GDP rises to say $60,000 in 10 years, then what, health care might rise to $10,000...but this is not a bad thing, just means that food and shelter kind of plateau, leaving more $$ to stay fit and enjoy.
NPR Part of the DC Money Party
written by Steve, November 18, 2010 9:57
NPR is just a part of the DC Money Party, and Mara Liasson is not the only one. They are obsessed with the deficit. They are constantly hosting deficit hawks to spout falsehoods unchallenged. NPR wants to be an accepted part of the DC establishment rather than reporting the truth.
written by skeptonomist, November 18, 2010 10:34
It is true that health-care costs in the US are badly out of line with those in the rest of the world, but it does not follow from this that those costs are the key or the solution to the problem of deficits. The evidence for this is obvious and empirical (that is not based on any economic dogmas or models); many of those other countries with better health-care systems also suffer from deficits. What would happen if the US adopted single-payer tomorrow and brought its costs down to the world average? Taxes would be cut the day after tomorrow.

The real problem (if deficits are really a problem) is that many voters are under the delusion that "government" and taxes can be reduced while the services provided are actually expanded.
yes indeedy skepto..
written by pete, November 18, 2010 11:00
Look, Krugman today saying we should impoverish the poor with a VAT so we can afford to give them a safety net....circle that logic, eh! But of course this is a statists ultimate goal, get everybody sucking off the government tit..even though they are feeding the cow. Then they are dependent, will vote for ya. Worked for Marion Barry in DC for many years. It is the unfortunate slave mentality...control safety trumps scary freedom.
written by liberal, November 18, 2010 11:44
pete wrote,
Costs are high since there is no skin in the game for the user. Consider health care where there is skin in the game, like dental, plastic surgery, lasix eye surgery, etc. Here costs have fallen dramatically.

Nonsense. Those are all elective procedures, in no way illustrative of procedures like cardiac stents.

There's no evidence that consumers have any ability at all to choose health care rationally, given a budget constraint. (I don't think there's much evidence doctors do too well, either.)
written by liberal, November 18, 2010 11:46
...but it does not follow from this that those costs are the key or the solution to the problem of deficits.

It absolutely does follow that controlling health care costs is a necessary part of the solution, if not entirely sufficient.
written by liberal, November 18, 2010 11:51
pete wrote,

We want to spend more...demand is ultimately almost infinite, since zero health care=>death.

Uh, no. Most people don't want an infinite amount of health care, especially if they're relatively healthy to begin with.

And as for zero health care=>death, it goes without saying that no matter how much you spend on health care, you're going to die, almost certainly before you're 105. And if you get too much health care, you might in fact die sooner.
written by liberal, November 18, 2010 11:56
pete blithered,
But of course this is a statists ultimate goal, get everybody sucking off the government tit..even though they are feeding the cow.

Well, in a bipolar world where the only alternatives are that, versus a Libertarian paradise with no government and a bloody war of all against all, I'd pick the former.

OTOH, contrary to your silly caricature, we don't live in a bipolar world, but can choose the alternative of the government doing things which only the government can do, or which the government is best doing. Chief among the latter, due to multiple market failures, is to provide both health insurance and health care.

written by jamzo, November 18, 2010 12:09
juan williams was a npr/fox reporter and he is now a fox persona

mara liassson is a npr/fox reporter

will she be joining juan williams as a fox persona
We need to make a dramtic change to induce dramatic results
written by Hospital Administrator, November 18, 2010 12:19
We all need to realize that we do not have a health care system in this county. What we have is a sick care system. Curiously absent from the whole health care debate is the idea of avoiding these costs at all. If everyone in the nation ate a proper diet, got enough exercise, and stopped engaging in risky behaviors (i.e. unprotected sex, illegal and legal drug abuse, smoking, driving without a seat belt, etc.) then our health system would have a very large over capacity issue. But if we accept our sick care system as a given along with our current behaviors, why not do away with the entire concept of sick care insurance for paying for these services? Everyone would be considered uninsured and be charged the same amount for each service. This would greatly simplify the administration side of sick care, reducing costs dramatically. It would also remove all of the pricing distortions that are currently part of our sick care system. Under today’s model, an uninsured patient is billed the full rate, where insured patients are billed a greatly reduced negotiated rate (generally 50% of full rate). Presumably, the uninsured have a reduced ability to pay (except for the occasional super wealthy self insured patient who just writes the check without even blinking), yet they are billed the highest rates. This makes no sense, yet is the accepted practice. But what about subsidizing? Healthy people will always subsidize the sick, no matter what changes we make to our sick care system. For those who can’t pay their sick care bills, allow for government sponsored loans and/or credit lines to be granted. This way the providers get paid efficiently and adjudication costs are reduced to near zero. The patients would be accountable for the loan/credit line, but on very reasonable terms. The patients would then have skin in the game and be able to shop for the best price for all of their non-emergent needs. Payment term lengths could be spread across the expected lifespan of the patient with a low (or no) interest rate, with final payment paid for from their estate upon death if there are any net assets (subordinated as the top creditor). If the estate cannot pay the full amount, then the government eats that amount, just like today, but with a much simplified approach. So the loan/credit line becomes the effective subsidizer. How do we fund this? Perhaps a payroll tax of some sort, or an income tax. Since there would be no more sick care insurance premiums to contend with (along with copays, co-insurance, HSA accounts, etc) these freed up funds could be directed into the sick care payment pool. I’m just trying to think a bit creatively here, as tweaking what we have is not going to do anyone any good. Also, the current factions that are benefitting from the inefficiencies in our current system (health insurance companies come to the forefront of my mind) are digging in their heels to prevent any real change. One way to make dramatic improvement is to dramatically alter the way that funds flow through the sick care system and let the receivers of the services be charged and pay directly, just like any other service out there.
freeloaders and laughter
written by David, November 18, 2010 1:01

"The socialists are on the run." You just don't get it do you, mr. corporate handout condoner. No, the real freeloaders are the banks and the finance houses and insurance companies. They are not on the run, they are about to storm the citadel. Once they rob the retirement fund coffers, the story is over, there is nothing left for them to steal, and mandated health care (gutted of all consumer protections) will remain to insure the insurers. Get your freeloaders straight, izzatzo: you are penny wise but dollar foolish. Wake up before they drain the rest of my savings.
Freeloading Perspective
written by Jimbo316, November 18, 2010 1:38
Supposed "anti-freeloaders" like commentator Izzato fail to notice the moral hazard and free loading nature of many of the GOP/Tea Party positions. We'll leave aside the obvious fact that continuing the Bush tax cuts for the super wealthy not only results in little or no net job creation but requires borrowing that money to fund the deficit from the Chinese. Meanwhile the GOP has managed only to ban earmarks, which make up less than 1% of the annual budget while giving out huge freebie subsidies to the big multinationals. But the best example is their call to repeal the recent health care bill, which if successful, would return us to the situation that allows any citizen to simply opt out of buying health care insurance until s/he gets sick whereupon they show up at the ER and get treated for free at taxpayer's expense - one of the many reasons why our "free market" health care system costs 2-3 times as much for equivalent or, in many cases, much worse results compared with any other industrialized country. But, they say, European health care is all about rationing. Aside from that assertion mostly being the usual lies, the U.S. system operates by a far more draconian rationing system. If you have enough money to pay the ever more expensive and restrictive premiums you get health care; if not you get to die in the street. Hurray, we're free (?!!)
written by Scott ffolliott, November 19, 2010 12:53
Let’s be clear here, that the Deficit-reduction plan is utter nonsense when 15 million people are out of work. Bowles and Simpson are not only incompetent but have a vested interest that does harm to working people.
When selling competing narratives Robert Fisk points out "The phrase is a species - or sub-species - of the false language of anthropology." Ms. Liasson does what has become journalism's specialty; she takes one narrative and compares it to another narrative without the need to verify either with factual information. Easy enough, but she leaves us without facts so we are left to our superstitions.
written by skeptonomist, November 19, 2010 8:58
There are two problems under discussion and I don't think it helps to confound them.

Debt/GDP has been increasing since around 1981 as a result of tax cutting and recently the crash and bailout of the private financial industry - health care has little to do with this and at this point Medicare/Medicaid is not a cause of deficits (nor of course is SS). If the current deficits were not so high and if a Republican were President there would probably be little or no discussion of future deficits - this was the case during the Bush administration although the health-care dimension to future federal budgets was well known.

The evidence of other countries indicates that health-care costs could be reduced greatly by a completely government-run system and this could reduce the government expenses projected for the current tax-supported private system. But there is no evidence whatsoever that this would eliminate deficits, which depend on government revenues as well as expenditures. Of course there is also another way that health-care expenditures as a contributor to deficits could be reduced or eliminated, which is elimination of Medicare, Medicaid and other tax support of health care. Some right-wing politicians claim to want to do this, but it is unlikely that there would ever be public support for it.

If you want to reduce health-care costs you have to face up to the fact that the current system is very inefficient, and that other systems exist which are unquestionably better. If you want to reduce deficits you have to face up to the fact that you can't continue to cut taxes while expanding government services.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

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.