Manipulating Medicare

Published — February 14, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Budget deliberations silent on Medicare or other entitlements


True fiscal hawks likely won’t find much to celebrate in this week’s budget machinations, talk of spending cuts aside. That’s because neither President Obama nor Congressional Republicans have much to say about cutting the entitlement programs that are driving the nation’s long-term debt problems.

The 2012 budgetary blueprint the President delivered Monday pledges to reduce deficits by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, with roughly two-thirds of that savings coming from domestic programs. House Republicans are focused on trying to squeeze $60 billion in cuts from this year’s budget, which has lurched forward only through a continuing resolution.

But the silence is deafening regarding Social Security, Medicaid and especially Medicare, which represent most of the big dollars responsible for the nation’s fiscal crisis. That silence is galling to some members of last year’s “take your medicine” deficit commission, especially silver-tongued former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming.

“I’m waiting for the politician to get up and say, ‘There’s only one way to do this: You dig into the big four – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense,’ ” Simpson said. “And anybody giving you anything different from that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie.”

The challenges of dealing with Medicare costs were detailed by the Center last November in a piece entitled, “Medicare: An Entitlement Out of Control.” The story noted that the government health care program is utterly unsustainable, but politically untouchable.

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