Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spinning On Medicare


The discussion turned to Medicare on Sunday's Fareed Zakaria GPS (transcript here) with guests Andrew Roberts, described as a "British historian and conservative," Chrystia Frland, Elliot Spitzer, and Ann Coulter. Coulter was at her best, with a grasp on truthfulness as strong as Sarah Palin's grasp of American history:


FREELAND: Yes, just for his party. And really, I think the tragedy for Democrats right now is that Barack Obama has not been making the strong Keynesian Democratic case he should be making, which Eliot has made right now.

ZAKARIA: OK, let me ask - let me ask - we've got to go, but I have to ask Ann this, which is there's - there is a strong case that he has made - Obama has made, which is about Medicare. And, on that issue, I want to know whether you think it will work. Not - I know that you wish that he didn't say it and that the Democrats' took entitlement reform more seriously, and I happen to agree with you there.

But, when you ask the American people, should - are you willing to deal with the budget deficit by cutting Medicare, 78 percent say no. I mean, I don't think you can get 78 percent of Americans to agree on the time of day.

COULTER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Where do (ph) -

COULTER: It's the utter irresponsibility of former Democrats. It's hard to take treats away from people, and that's what we've done. And Democrats set up a Ponzi scheme with social security and Medicare, and it's running out now. And, yes, it's very hard to take the treats away once you start giving them away, which is why it was utterly irresponsible for Democrats long dead and gone to set up these systems that could never last.

But, you know, it would be very helpful -

ZAKARIA: But will it work? That's what I'm asking.

COULTER: -- if we could get Democrats to acknowledge the system's about to go bankrupt rather than showing commercials of Paul Ryan -

ZAKARIA: But will it - OK.

COULTER: -- pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff.

ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go. Chrystia, last word on Medicare and the rest (ph).

FREELAND: The last word is you are absolutely right. I think this is the single strongest point for the Democrats, and what it shows, actually, is that Americans don't see successful government programs as treats, which they are childish for enjoying. They see successful government programs as what the government should be doing.

COULTER: A program that's about to go bankrupt is not successful.

The trustees who oversee Medicare and Social Security, when last August they issued their latest annual report, estimated that funds in the Medicare hospital trust fund would be exhausted in 2029. That would be oh, 18 years from now, or in Ann Coulter's words "about to go." FREELAND: Yes, just for his party. And really, I think the tragedy for Democrats right now is that Barack Obama has not been making the strong Keynesian Democratic case he should be making, which Eliot has made right now.

ZAKARIA: OK, let me ask - let me ask - we've got to go, but I have to ask Ann this, which is there's - there is a strong case that he has made - Obama has made, which is about Medicare. And, on that issue, I want to know whether you think it will work. Not - I know that you wish that he didn't say it and that the Democrats' took entitlement reform more seriously, and I happen to agree with you there.

But, when you ask the American people, should - are you willing to deal with the budget deficit by cutting Medicare, 78 percent say no. I mean, I don't think you can get 78 percent of Americans to agree on the time of day.

COULTER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Where do (ph) -

COULTER: It's the utter irresponsibility of former Democrats. It's hard to take treats away from people, and that's what we've done. And Democrats set up a Ponzi scheme with social security and Medicare, and it's running out now. And, yes, it's very hard to take the treats away once you start giving them away, which is why it was utterly irresponsible for Democrats long dead and gone to set up these systems that could never last.

But, you know, it would be very helpful -

ZAKARIA: But will it work? That's what I'm asking.

COULTER: -- if we could get Democrats to acknowledge the system's about to go bankrupt rather than showing commercials of Paul Ryan -

ZAKARIA: But will it - OK.

COULTER: -- pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff.

ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go. Chrystia, last word on Medicare and the rest (ph).

FREELAND: The last word is you are absolutely right. I think this is the single strongest point for the Democrats, and what it shows, actually, is that Americans don't see successful government programs as treats, which they are childish for enjoying. They see successful government programs as what the government should be doing.

COULTER: A program that's about to go bankrupt is not successful.

The trustees who oversee Medicare and Social Security, when last August they issued their latest annual report, estimated that funds in the Medicare hospital trust fund would be exhausted in 2029. That would be oh, 18 years from now, or in Ann Coulter's words "about to go." FREELAND: Yes, just for his party. And really, I think the tragedy for Democrats right now is that Barack Obama has not been making the strong Keynesian Democratic case he should be making, which Eliot has made right now.

ZAKARIA: OK, let me ask - let me ask - we've got to go, but I have to ask Ann this, which is there's - there is a strong case that he has made - Obama has made, which is about Medicare. And, on that issue, I want to know whether you think it will work. Not - I know that you wish that he didn't say it and that the Democrats' took entitlement reform more seriously, and I happen to agree with you there.

But, when you ask the American people, should - are you willing to deal with the budget deficit by cutting Medicare, 78 percent say no. I mean, I don't think you can get 78 percent of Americans to agree on the time of day.

COULTER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Where do (ph) -

COULTER: It's the utter irresponsibility of former Democrats. It's hard to take treats away from people, and that's what we've done. And Democrats set up a Ponzi scheme with social security and Medicare, and it's running out now. And, yes, it's very hard to take the treats away once you start giving them away, which is why it was utterly irresponsible for Democrats long dead and gone to set up these systems that could never last.

But, you know, it would be very helpful -

ZAKARIA: But will it work? That's what I'm asking.

COULTER: -- if we could get Democrats to acknowledge the system's about to go bankrupt rather than showing commercials of Paul Ryan -

ZAKARIA: But will it - OK.

COULTER: -- pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff.

ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go. Chrystia, last word on Medicare and the rest (ph).

FREELAND: The last word is you are absolutely right. I think this is the single strongest point for the Democrats, and what it shows, actually, is that Americans don't see successful government programs as treats, which they are childish for enjoying. They see successful government programs as what the government should be doing.

COULTER: A program that's about to go bankrupt is not successful.

The trustees who oversee Medicare and Social Security, when last August they issued their latest annual report, estimated that funds in the Medicare hospital trust fund would be exhausted in 2029. That would be oh, 18 years from now, or in Ann Coulter's words "about to go." Part B (doctor's, and other outpatient, expenses) and Part D (drugs) cannot be exhausted because their needs by law are provided by financing each year to meet the next year's expected costs. (This also is why Medicare technically is not a "Ponzi scheme." No matter- the characterization is a frivolous one meant only to deligitimize the program.) Projected shortfalls have been reduced by the Affordable Care Act, which Coulter lustfully opposes.


But Coulter has a point, almost. The cost of Medicare keeps going up- but not nearly as much as the cost of private sector health care, which is less efficient and whose costs are rising more rapidly, as the graph (below) from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates







Paul Krugman summarizes "If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If phttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrivate insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper."

Health care costs, not Medicare, are the problem, as Coulter, not completely ignorant, is aware. As the table (from OECD Health Data, 2009 via angelfire.com) below shows, per capita health spending in the U.S.A. in 2007 reached $7,290, the highest among 30 OECD countries and $2527 higher than #2, Norway.





Even as a share of GDP (as displayed by the table- from the same source- below) the USA ranked #1- worst- in 2007 (and still does), when 16.0% of the gross domestic product went to health care, far more than the 11.0% devoted to health care by #2, France.







Even more disturbing: Coulter and much of the right are even less truthful about Social Security.



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