We as a country face the terrible responsibility — and I call it “terrible” because we haven’t met the challenge for a long time — of grappling with government at all levels having collectively committed to more than we can afford. Fewer sectors of the economy illustrate this better than health care.
With Congress back in session, there’s a lot of rhetoric about reigning in government spending and “every dollar counts” and on and on. But at the heart of it, there’s only one place where you can make a difference at the federal level with our spending.
A recent analysis of the Medicare program shows it’s a monster eating up the federal budget, while affecting our nation’s financial health and long-term standing in the world. A new poll from a think tank group called GfK shows people believe that their Medicare paycheck deductions over the years will cover what they will take out of the system when they become Medicare eligible. Unfortunately, it’s not even close!
The average person over their working lifetime pays in a little more than $100,000. But they draw out more than $350,000 during their retirement years. That means the gap per person is roughly a quarter million dollars! Multiply that out by the number of retirees, and the number of Baby Boomers who are going to retire, and you’ve got a train wreck.
We as a country can continue down this path and relegate ourselves to Third World status in time. Or we can do something about it. It’s not a question of how big our hearts are. It’s more a question about what is realistic.
We have not been honest with ourselves and we need to be. Politicians need to realize that we can’t tax ourselves to solvency or promise ourselves to solvency. The only thing we can do is be honest with people and understand that the government can’t do for us what we have asked of it to do for us.
So, sure, we can keep trimming discretionary spending here and there. But if you think of a three-ring circus, that’s the smallest sideshow in the circus. The big show is what we spend on health care in every possible way. If we want to be serious, we need to go into the big ring and take care of the big problem.