The Four Fiscal Fantasies

Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler from the Third Way think tank have just written a new article, “The Four Fiscal Fantasies”, in which they address our country’s current fiscal situation from a point of view which is sympathetic to, but critical of, the left.

  • Fantasy #1:  Taxing the rich solves our problems.
  • Fantasy #2:  We can have it all.
  • Fantasy #3:  Waiting is benign.
  • Fantasy #4:  The politics get better.

These four fantasies are fairly self-explanatory.  The solution they propose for the long term insolvency of Social Security is an at least partial lifting of the FICA cap as well as chain-weighting of the CPI.  These are both good ideas.
Their solution to looming Medicare insolvency is to trim costs in the current program with, for example: bundled payments, medical homes for end-of-life, a permanent fix for the Sustainable Growth Rate (doc fix), reducing duplicative care, increasing provider coordination, etc.  This however is a band aid approach to getting Medicare costs under control.  We need far greater and more fundamental changes in our entire healthcare system, public and private.  Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Avik Roy have a plan to do this which I have discussed in my June 5, 2013 blog post, “Free Market Healthcare in America”.
With respect to discretionary spending in the federal budget, Mr. Cowan and Mr. Kessler propose several specific budget cuts in order to boost spending for other programs for kids, science, research, curing disease, infrastructure, etc.  Savings in one area would be spent on investments in other areas rather than being used for reducing the deficit.
To me this whole program represents a step in the right direction even though it does not come close to all of the changes that will be needed to shrink the deficit down to zero.  If national Democratic leaders would propose this sort of a program, it would force Republican leaders to take it seriously and would therefore break the current logjam in Congress.