We’ve all heard it before. A Republican says that Social Security and Medicare are going to bankrupt us, and then a clever liberal says, “Aaaaaaaaaaaactually, Social Security will be fine with minor adjustments — the real driver of deficits is exploding health care costs!” Whenever I hear a cliche explanation like this, I tend to assume it must be bullshit to some extent — and lo and behold!
Now of course there’s the question of why I would give credence to the Federal Reserve study summarized in the link post over the absolute lock-step consensus of liberal commentators that the deficit is of course very important and we of course need to get health care costs under control. I think the problem as I see it is that this “nuanced” approach basically accepts the Republican premise — namely, that we should be building government policy primarily around artificial accounting artifacts such as “the deficit” rather than actual human need — and shifts the terrain toward comfortable liberal positions. The need to get health care costs under control is, indeed, a position that both neoliberals and paleoliberals can enjoy: the neoliberals get to tinker with their wonky models for “nudging” market incentives, and the paleoliberals get to impotently point out that single-payer is obviously the best way to control costs.
What fun! We get to be smart and nuanced and really engage with smart conservatives, and fantasize about our favorite policy solutions! No wonder no one bothered to question the math!