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The Looming Problem

From an episode of NPR's talk show The Connection last week, in which host Dick Gordon interviewed Barry Anderson, Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office, who is departing due to his frustration with both ends of the political spectrum:

Dick Gordon: What is it that my senator or my congressional representative is not telling me?

Barry Anderson: Dick, we're facing a long-term problem. It's not a cliff; we're not going to wake up one morning and the whole government or financial system collapse, but we're facing a long-term problem that is inevitable. The baby boom, of which I'm a card-carrying member, is going to retire, begin to retire, in the next five to ten years, and as they do, the amount of government programs to assist them -- specifically, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- are going to rise as a percentage of our budget from about seven and a half cents per dollar that the whole country produces to double that, about fifteen cents. So right now today, people are working hard, producing all sorts of goods and services, and through our tax system and others, we're paying about seven and a half cents for the elderly that are retired now, but within the next fifteen to thirty years, that number's going to go up. That's known under current law. But what action isn't being taken now is to address the consequences of that known fact. And there are a lot of things that oculd be done, but those things aren't being done. Instead, as we sit here right this morning, Congress is debating a proposal to make the problem worse. That proposal is to add new drug benefits for the elderly. It may be a good proposal, but it will make the problem I've just described worse.

Nearly 40 million Americans had no health insurance in 2000, and yet somehow the US managed to spend 13.0 percent of GDP on health care -- 62 percent more than the European Union average of 8.0 percent, which represents countries all providing universal health care.

The US health care system is inefficient, unfair, and unsustainable. We spend far more than anyone else on health care while leaving vast numbers of people uninsured. I believe it to be vitally important that we reform our health care system at a basic level, to control spending while covering all citizens. But simply adding on new health benefits to certain segments of the population without finding a way to pay for them isn't reform -- it's pandering, plain and simple.

More of Barry Anderson's thoughts soon.


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