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THE SKY IS FALLING… the sky is not falling

Dean Baker and Paul Krugman have been making rational arguments against cutting the pillars of our social safety net as it is, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as a means of deficit reduction. However, their reasoned arguments are losing to the “deficit scolds.”

It is not merely that the Peterson Foundation is a better-funded propaganda machine. It is that its arguments are easier to understand: the government built up a huge debt, and thus it has to curtail spending. The “entitlement programs” spend the most, so they must be cut back.

President Obama has not been able to articulate the wrongheadedness of this approach in a pursuasive manner. He has tried, but his partial embrace of the goals of the deficit hawks has compromised his presentation.

Dean Baker writes intelligently about these issues; he is little known among the punditry. Paul Krugman is a more visible spokesman for rationality, however, he comes across as too professorial and has an dismissive smirk (it’s justified, I love the smirk, but it diminishes his influence) so that he has not been able to change public opinion.

No one is making the obvious defenses for the preservation of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security: they work; the elderly, ill and disabled have enjoyed a decent standard of living because of them; they do not have the resources or earning capacity to replace those benefits privately; to the extend life expectancy has increaed for these folks, you can thank these programs. The changes needed to preserve the programs are the same changes needed to rein in healthcare costs for the general population; and these improvements are what we should focusing on.

We need a strong spokesman for rational healthcare reform. Until such a voice emerges, the best we can do is hold those who want to gut “entitlements.” No deal may not be good; it is a better alternative to an ill-conceived impoverishment of these programs.

Asher Fried

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Feb 25 2013 - 10:33am