by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The White House is pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into its public relations campaign to build public support for — and understanding of — Obamacare. Imagine what a fraction of that effort might do if directed at educating voters about the dangers of exploding entitlement costs. Here’s what a newly enlightened public might learn:
–We haven’t “fixed” the federal debt. It’s true that sequester-mandated cuts — combined with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s $131 billion payback to the Treasury and a slightly better economy — have improved the short-term outlook. But while the debt as a share of the economy will drop over the next four years, it will start to rise again after 2018, reaching 85% of GDP by 2030 — and then swamping the size of the economy at 136% by 2050 and 248% by 2080, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).
–Despite a much-touted slowdown in the growth of health care costs (largely because of a lagging recovery, according to studies), Medicare spending will rise from $500 billion this year to more than $900 billion by 2023, according to another nonpartisan debt group, Moment of Truth. As baby boomers retire, raising taxes or slicing benefits will become a brutal necessity. The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will still go broke in 2026 — and 10 years later the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted. …
… That’s where President Obama could step in to make the case that reforming entitlements means rescuing them. With both sides of the aisle coming to an agreement on cost-control measures such as means-testing and Medicare cost-sharing, all roads lead to the need for leadership from a President whose liberal-activist base is well practiced in the art of demonizing anyone who dares question the growth of entitlement programs.
Debt-control advocates are hoping that President Obama will see entitlement reform as a way to leave an important legacy in his second term. That’s unlikely. The President opened his second term with an inaugural address making clear that “hard choices” on spending would take a back seat to the “commitments we make to each other: through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security.”