October 9, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Marie Burns:
Dean Baker wrote a thorough takedown of David Brooks’ column yesterday. Brooks thesis: that the Romney/Ryan Medicare voucher plan would be superior to ObamaCare in bringing down medical costs because a “market-based approach” is likely to be better than anything the government may do. Baker covers the gamut of Brooks’ disinformation effort.
Brooks sounds the alarm based on these statistics:
According to the Urban Institute, the average couple in 2010 had paid $109,000 in Medicare taxes during their working years but would be able to receive about $343,000 in benefits. A chunk of that $234,000 gap will be paid for by their grandkids. That should weigh on the conscience of every American over 55. You’re supposed to help your grandkids, not take from them.
It would be nice to think that Brooks came up with these figures from his deep dive into Urban Institute studies. He didn’t. He got them from Avik Roy, a policy advisor to the righty-right-wing climate-change-denying – and much discredited – Heartland Institute. And Roy’s “analysis” comes to Brooks not from Roy himself but – more than likely – via Paul Ryan. Isn’t that convenient? Dean Baker writes that Brooks “clearly is doing his best for the [Romney/Ryan] campaign.” I guess so.
The Urban Institute must have updated its figures (even if Brooks, Ryan and Roy have not), because according to this pdf, the researchers calculated that average-earner couple would have paid in about $116,000, not $109,000 as Brooks writes, and they would be eligible for $351,000 in Medicare benefits, not the $343,000 Brooks borrowed from Paul Ryan’s official Website. But hey, when you’re writing your column off Paul Ryan’s Website, you can’t really expect the figures you crib to be all that current. Paul Ryan is busy with other things.
Brooks treats the Medicare deficit as a moral issue. We’re all takers! Sticking it to the grandkids is so wrong!
There is a moral issue here, but not the one Brooks raises. While it is SOP to blame the overall federal deficit on “soaring medical costs,” the real reason for the deficit is a more basic one: depressed wages. Payroll taxes support Medicare: employees currently pay 1.45 percent of their gross salaries to the Medicare fund and employers match that. There is no cap, as there is for the Social Security tax. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, high earners will pay an additional .9 percent into the Medicare fund.
If Medicare is broke, it is because middle-class Americans are earning lower and lower wages. Our incomes have not kept up with healthcare costs. While it is true that there is room for a more efficient healthcare delivery system, the best way to keep Medicare solvent is to increase wages: higher wages equal higher Medicare revenues. Pretty simple. The solution is better pay, not the Romney/Ryan/Brooks plan to transfer more healthcare costs to seniors. As usual, David Brooks looks at a problem and finds a non-solution “solution,” one that hurts ordinary Americans but helps his party.
Marie Burns blogs at RealityChex.com