Joshua Holland, on his Alternet Radio Hour for November 10th, mentioned an interesting calculation done by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). According to Baker, if the United States had average health care costs closer to those of most other (OECD) industrialized nations (rather than twice those), we would have no deficit problem:
If the US had the health care costs of Australia, we’d see public debt in 2022 fall from a projected 90 percent of GDP to a much more manageable 60 percent. Having the same costs as Canada and Germany would make that number only slightly higher, at around 64 percent of GDP.
Therefore, while we’ll continue to be bombarded with talk of the need for “shared sacrifice” and a “grand compromise” involving cuts to essential programs like Social Security and Medicare to curb future deficits, the real issue is a broken private sector healthcare system. If costs in the healthcare system are not brought under control, there are no realistic solutions to the deficit problem.
Thus, what we refer to as a deficit problem is fundamentally a health care cost problem.
You can be certain, though, that there are many who understand that you should never let a good crisis go to waste, and are even willing to manufacture one (think “fiscal cliff”) in order to get their greedy mitts on such beautiful money pools as the Social Security trust fund. Or even just in order — as an ideological “good” in itself — to further chip aware at the New Deal safety-net.