8:44PM EST November 14. 2012 - Whenever talk turns to the federal deficit, activists on the political left have a common refrain: Don’t touch our benefits! Since Nov. 6, they’ve been trying out a variant that goes something like this: Because our side won the election, definitely don’t touch our benefits!
This argument, being made by labor and seniors groups in an advertising and grass-roots campaign, is as nonsensical as it is mistaken. It rivals Republican intransigence on taxes as an obstacle to taming the deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax hikes.
Yes, taxes need to go up, and not just for the wealthiest Americans. And yes, there’s room for cuts in the Pentagon and other federal departments. But changes in these areas, as needed as they may be, would still be overwhelmed by the burst in spending on Social Security and Medicare as the Baby Boom generation retires and lifespans increase….
he more urgent and difficult issue is the surge in spending on Medicare, Medicaid and related programs. The numbers tell the story. In 1990, Washington spent $180 billion on health care, accounting for 14% of federal spending. In 2017, the expected tab is $1.4 trillion, or 30% of federal spending. As President Obama said at his news conference Wednesday, “Health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits.”