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Posted at 9:12 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Can John Boehner change the tone on entitlements?

By Ezra Klein

For months now, John Boehner’s line on entitlements has echoed Barack Obama’s line on the future: it’s all about education. “I think it’s incumbent on us, if we are serious about dealing with the big challenges, that we go out and help Americans understand how big the problem is that faces us,” John Boehner told the Wall Street Journal. “Once they understand how big the problem is, I think people will be more receptive to what the possible solutions may be.”

For a preview of the Deficits 101 seminar that Republicans are preparing to run, take a look at the slides (pdf) Professor Paul Ryan is presenting to small groups of his colleagues to help them prepare for late-March’s “Constituent Workweek.” As a House aide told Politico’s Mike Allen, “It’s explaining, not lobbying them on a special brand of reform. It’s, ‘Here’s the problem,’ instead of, ‘Here’s the answer we’re trying to sell you on.’”

But if deficit discussion led to deficit reduction, then between health-care reform and the 2010 election, we’d have surpluses stretching out into the wild blue yonder. Ryan’s slides correctly emphasize the importance of health-care reform to America’s fiscal future, but so too did, well, health-care reform — and Republicans hammered Democrats for everything in the bill that had an even outside chance of controlling Medicare’s costs or cutting insurance spending. Remember “death panels” — the GOP’s term for offering reimbursement for doctors to provide information on end-of-life options? Remember Boehner attacking Democrats for holding ”a press conference to pat themselves on the back for ‘protecting’ Medicare, even though their government takeover of health care bill would cut seniors’ Medicare benefits by $500 billion”? Remember how he ended that statement? “Are you kidding me?”

Which gets to the real issue here: the public isn’t so much resistant to deficit reduction as receptive to demagogic attacks on the sort of policies needed to reduce deficits — including the ones we’ve already passed into law. Boehner has proposed some sort of truce on these issues to Obama — the president responded “positively,” Boehner said — but it’ll be the terms and strength of that detente, not whatever happens at constituent workweek, that’ll decide whether we get to a deal. And to a lot of Democrats, Boehner’s offer sounds a bit suspect: the GOP, having won the election in large part by hammering Democrats for Medicare cuts, wants an agreement to end criticism of Medicare cuts right before they propose some of their own. It’s got a very “do as I say, not as I do,” feel to it.

If Boehner is going to convince Democrats that this is good faith rather than crass calculation, he’ll need to go first. One way to start? Adopting a more balanced and honest take on the Affordable Care Act. No more calling the bill “job destroying” because it makes people richer and makes it easier for early retirees to buy health care on their own. No more attacking the bill for being both fiscally irresponsible and for cutting Medicare and taxing high-value health-care plans. The truth is, the Affordable Care Act does more to control costs in Medicare than any single piece of legislation we’ve ever passed. If Boehner is so serious about a new tone and an educational discussion over entitlements, then it’s time for him to admit that.

By Ezra Klein  | March 7, 2011; 9:12 AM ET
 
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Comments

If Obama leads on entitlement reform, and a bargain is reached, doesn't that help Obama more than the GOP in 2012? The GOP won't be able to attack him for an agreement they signed onto, and he will be able to take credit for fiscally responsible bipartisanship.

Posted by: jduptonma | March 7, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Excellent post. And fat chance.

Posted by: bmoodie | March 7, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

No, Boehner cannot change the tone. As a Social Secirity recipient, I'll fight hard to keep things as they are, both for myself and for those who come later. If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's. There are other ways to solve the deficit. Cut the military, farm subsidies, and raise taxes on the ones who have benefitted from the huge bailouts, no-bid contracts, and loose regulation which has allowed banks to steal the homes and savings of millions of ordinary people.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | March 7, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

No, Boehner cannot change the tone. As a Social Secirity recipient, I'll fight hard to keep things as they are, both for myself and for those who come later. If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's. There are other ways to solve the deficit. Cut the military, farm subsidies, and raise taxes on the ones who have benefitted from the huge bailouts, no-bid contracts, and loose regulation which has allowed banks to steal the homes and savings of millions of ordinary people.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | March 7, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

No, Boehner cannot change the tone. As a Social Secirity recipient, I'll fight hard to keep things as they are, both for myself and for those who come later. If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's. There are other ways to solve the deficit. Cut the military, farm subsidies, and raise taxes on the ones who have benefitted from the huge bailouts, no-bid contracts, and loose regulation which has allowed banks to steal the homes and savings of millions of ordinary people.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | March 7, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Great post Ezra, and no, there is no way that Obama and Boehner will "get in the boat together".

I think Boehner would, if not for the tea party. Frankly, it would be great for Obama and the Democrats if they did, as the Republican caucus in the house would fall apart.

So, we're left with the Ds cutting $500b from medicare, and the Rs blaming them for it, while simultaneously claiming to want to cut the same.

Kind of like both sides at a football game rooting for the same team, but convincing everyone that they aren't.

AKA, Crazy time in DC, or business as usual...

Posted by: jrheisler | March 7, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Politicians, both Democrats AND Republicans, aren't interested in solving any problems other than keeping themselves in office.

That's why they won't even discuss the real budget problems.

They are more interested in making political points than coming up with compromises that both parties could live with, and that could balance the budget.

Posted by: postfan1 | March 7, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What makes you think Boehner is the guy to do this? From all signs, his rank-and-file is totally out of control and his "leadership" is tenuous.

Posted by: gilroy0 | March 7, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Your headline should read - Can Harry Reid change the attitude of the Senate Democrats and get serious about reducing spending including the misnamed affordable Health Care Act. The legislation did nothing to decrease cost of health care but did introduce a lot of extra cost in administrating new regulations that will not slow down the increase of health care but will greatly expand the powers of the Federal Governmnet.

Posted by: sales7 | March 7, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's.
------

They are also the ones paying the majority of taxes considering 46% of people don't pay a single $ in taxes.

Taxing the rich more will make them leave the country and trust me, they can easily do that.

Posted by: cavatellie | March 7, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Our Republic and Main Street economies can be fixed if done immediatly.
Nationalize health care, banking, all insurance and energy. Bring back or help start ups of new manufacturing, farming and mining. Bring to justice those who have looted, scammed and out-sourced the economy in time of war which is treason and recover the wealth. I would also mention getting rid of all career politicans but that is a given.

Posted by: 123Njord | March 7, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"Taxing the rich more will make them leave the country and trust me, they can easily do that."

Gee, do you promise? I can't wait.
How about the Koch brothers first?

Posted by: Virginia7 | March 7, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

first of all...
to those getting or 55 and over...
your benefits are assured...
if any changes come...
it will be for those working right now paying into the system...
they will get rid of the cap...
they might raise the entitlement age another 2 to 4 years maybe...
to those getting...
all will be as it is...

Posted by: DwightCollins | March 7, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

About 13% of the federal budget was spent in 2010 for Medicare which is currently used by only about 15% of our population.

That is a trend that is simply unsustainable on any level.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I thought the president is supposed to lead. The GOP controls only the House, not the Administration, not the Senate. But naturally you want it to stick its neck out, so the president can attack. I seem to think that the president is the one with the bully pulpit to advocate a cause, not the speaker of the House. But of course, your agenda is to spout talking points for the Democratic party. As for Obamacare, the president went non-stop advocating that, despite fierce public opposition, because it's on the Democrats agenda. Honest, significant deficit reduction is not.

Posted by: weissler | March 7, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Obama himself has said that entitlements are the largest drain on the budget. And his actions over the past 2 years have made it worse, so what do you mean can "John Boehner change the tone on entitlements"?

Posted by: vatownsend1 | March 7, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"The GOP won't be able to attack him for an agreement they signed ont..."

Right, just like the Republicans won a slew of Democratic House seats over the TARP bank bailed ... it'd appeared that not a single Republican voted for it but the Democrats rammed it through so Obama could sign it (of course it was signed by Bush).

"They are also the ones paying the majority of taxes considering 46% of people don't pay a single $ in taxes.

Taxing the rich more will make them leave the country and trust me, they can easily do that."

There are two federal tax regimes-- income taxes and FICA payroll taxes. If someone earns a paycheck, they pay FICA taxes from dollar one of income so you're wrong.

The rich can stay or leave as they choose, its a free country. But a US citizen has an obligation to pay taxes on any income earned worldwide. We'll miss you but thanks for mailing home money every quarter!

Posted by: beowulf_ | March 7, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's.
------

They are also the ones paying the majority of taxes considering 46% of people don't pay a single $ in taxes."

@cavatellie, where are you getting that 46%? It sounds high in any context, but you surely must be counting only federal income taxes (as conservatives ALWAYS cite only income taxes when they claim that lots of lower-income workers "don't pay taxes."

But those lower-income workers do pay payroll taxes (i.e., SS and Medicare taxes). And THAT is where upper-income earners could and should pay more. For even what most would consider the upper middle-class, SS and Medicare taxes end well before the end of the year, because there is a cap on the amount of income taxed. We should raise (or eliminate) that cap and impose that payroll tax on more (or all) income.

Posted by: Janine1 | March 7, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Beat you to the buzzer Janine, but thanks for noting the cap on Social Security FICA.

Posted by: beowulf_ | March 7, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Boehner has painted himself into a corner, and he wants Obama's help to get out of it. He may have "signaled" that he's willing to work on entitlement reform, but like all the rest of his and McConnell's offers, compromise means doing only what they would do otherwise.

"Professor" Ryan's budget roadmap won't balance the budget until 2060, and will run up $62 trillion in debt. Classic Republican economic insanity.

They're here to help the rich extract as much money as they can from the US, and then once we're bankrupt the rich, and their Republican lackeys will simply leave the country. A poster here has already said it: the richest 1% could leave now and take 50% of the country's wealth with them. What he doesn't realize is once they have almost all of it, they will leave.

"A merchant has no country". -- Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: dpc2003 | March 7, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

actually Janine there is no cap on the Medicare portion so while SS contributions ends as you say it doesn't for Medicare.

You forgot that low income workers also get a lot of tax breaks (almost as many as high income ones).

As for me I'd sign off on now on tax reform that gets all the special interests out not just the ones that conservatives or liberals like. You know one that's fair to all.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 7, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

@cavatellie, where are you getting that 46%? It sounds high in any context, but you surely must be counting only federal income taxes (as conservatives ALWAYS cite only income taxes when they claim that lots of lower-income workers "don't pay taxes."

But those lower-income workers do pay payroll taxes (i.e., SS and Medicare taxes). And THAT is where upper-income earners could and should pay more. For even what most would consider the upper middle-class, SS and Medicare taxes end well before the end of the year, because there is a cap on the amount of income taxed. We should raise (or eliminate) that cap and impose that payroll tax on more (or all) income.
_______________________
the reason there's a cap for SS is that the benefit formula is still tied to contributions. Raise the cap, and there would have to be some increase in the maximum payments. If you raise the cap and don't increase max benefits, then you have completely broken the connection between contributions and benefits, and created a subsidized system. Nothing says we can't, but we have resisted that to date, and a subsidized system would run counter to the political winds to say the least.

Posted by: JoeT1 | March 7, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

There goes Ezra again, assuming that Republican opposition to HCR was and is anything but politics.

Posted by: nickthap | March 7, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

the republican strategy appears to be: maintain the uber-expensive status quo for the current 55+ crowd so you can get their votes to defund the future for anyone under the age of 50.

the debate is increasingly about misalligned generational interests. tax cuts, medicare/social security for current retirees get support. funding for the things young people need to compete in the global economy (education, basic science, infrastructure, climate mitigation) do not.

no wonder they're trying to make it harder for young people to vote.

Posted by: haroldhendu | March 7, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, when are you going to take that job at Weekly Reader? You can show 'em how smart you really are.

Posted by: jellymon | March 7, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"But those lower-income workers do pay payroll taxes (i.e., SS and Medicare taxes). And THAT is where upper-income earners could and should pay more. For even what most would consider the upper middle-class, SS and Medicare taxes end well before the end of the year, because there is a cap on the amount of income taxed. We should raise (or eliminate) that cap and impose that payroll tax on more (or all) income."

If SS and Medicare are unfair to the poor, by all means lets just get rid of them.

Posted by: justin84 | March 7, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Good post. But you forgot to mention that unions are opted out of the high value health care tax until about 2018. No doubt you didn't leave that fact out on purpose. Right?? Neither the left nor the right is playing it straight. Sad!

Posted by: Fergie303 | March 7, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

In response to
"No, Boehner cannot change the tone. As a Social Secirity recipient, I'll fight hard to keep things as they are, both for myself and for those who come later. If the GOP wants to cut Social Security, let them start taxing the very rich first. Those folks have the lowest taxes since the 1950's. There are other ways to solve the deficit. Cut the military, farm subsidies, and raise taxes on the ones who have benefitted from the huge bailouts, no-bid contracts, and loose regulation which has allowed banks to steal the homes and savings of millions of ordinary people."

This comment and comparable ones demonstrate the extent of the challenge we face in regard to the deficit when citizens think only of what a particular change means for them and them alone without regard for the common good. As long as we have a "beggar thy neighbor" approach which insists that we impose costs on others so that we avoid any costs for ourselves we will continue down the path to fiscal disaster. As citizens we need to learn to think of the needs of the nation first.

Posted by: jweley | March 7, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that if anyone ever suggests raising taxes on the upper income brackets, at least to the level they were in the 1990s (a period of sustained economic growth), s/he immediately gets pilloried for fostering class war? But when politicians on both sides immediately target "entitlements," where cutbacks will hit the low end of the economic ladder the hardest, no one worries about class. A couple of years ago, Warren Buffett was quoted as saying "Of course there is a class war, and the rich are winning." I'm not calling for a socialist revolution, a la Marx, just a more sensible, progressive tax scale. Since 1980 the share of the wealth controlled by the top 1% of the population has jumped from 10% to 25%. How did this happen? Does anyone seriously think that this is because they collectively have worked 2 and half times harder than the rest of us? I sure don't. The mega rich have used their money and influence to manipulate tax codes in a way that has caused an upward distribution of wealth. I wish that President Obama would take to heart the off-the-cuff comment he made to "Joe the Plumber" on the campaign trail that "we need to spread the wealth around."

Posted by: Cossackathon | March 7, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

excellent comment, Cossackathon. do you have a blog?

Posted by: haroldhendu | March 7, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

@cossackathon,

but isn't suggesting raising taxes one one segment class warfare in itself? BTW i'm not in that upper income bracket so I don't get affected by that tax you'd prefer and in fact I'd probably benefit somewhat from the tax being imposed.


That being said taxes have increased for the wealthy although not to the level of the 90's I'd suspect. PPACA includes the surcharge lifting the cap on Medicare tax collections.

Also President Obama has in his 2012 budget requested $556 Billion for infrastructure improvments (now we'll see if they actually get thru the House and Senate) but there is suggested a tax to pay for that amount. Any idea who they're going to target? It ain't you an me.

But I'm sure when the Bush tax cuts get rolled back on the rich as they should in 2012 then we'll also likewise roll back these other taxes too right to make it you know, FAIR?

In the end we can't tax the rich enough to get the 14 Trillion hole we're in and continuing to dig.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 7, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The main criticism of ACA is that Obama signed it. They've demagogued it as "Obamacare", revealing it's the Obama-part they hate.

Republicans don't care about America, just about ruling it. They want to put more people on unemployment because it helps them in 2012. Limburger said he wanted Obama to fail, and Republicans have adopted that as their policy, no matter what it costs this country.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 7, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who knows anything about projections and forecasts should take a look at those slides to get a good laugh. They are running trends out 60-70 years. The uncertainty in any trend projection out that long is staggering, even with armies of finance wizards and supercomputers.

It's like this. Say you have a rifle aimed at two targets. The rifle is a good one, but the sights are off one half of one percent. When fired at a target that is ten feet off, it still hits the bullseye, but is .12 inches from dead center. When fired at a target a mile away, however, it misses the bullseye by a bit over 5 feet, and that's only with all other things being equal. Similar to real life financial calculations, other factors come into play that add uncertainty to the long range that are irrelevant at short range. On our theoretical rifle, adjustments for cross winds and for elevation due to gravity must be made for long range that are insignificant at 10 feet.

So, the only most likely motivation the GOP has for those 60-70 year forecasts is to play out a trend line to some illogical extreme so as to make a visual impact. I won't even get into the bias that was put into the things in the first place. I betcha it produced a bias that was greater than one half of one percent.

Any projection greater than 10 years should be viewed with great skepticism, even one that is produce by an independent and unbiased source.

Posted by: truthwillout | March 7, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Here's a simple way to fix SS and cut taxes at the same time:

1) Keep the 4% rate set for 2011
2) Lift the cap on FICA income

All Americans making $150k or less would pay 2% of their salary less in FICA. SS would be fully funded 50+ years with no reduction in benefits.

Of course Boehner opposes this, because it helps 95% of Americans but slightly increases taxes on 5%. Republicans only care about those 5%, so screw the 95% of us.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 7, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"Why is it that if anyone ever suggests raising taxes on the upper income brackets, at least to the level they were in the 1990s (a period of sustained economic growth), s/he immediately gets pilloried for fostering class war?"

Because they are advocating the taking of one group's property - under pain of death or inprisonment - for the benefit of another group?

"Since 1980 the share of the wealth controlled by the top 1% of the population has jumped from 10% to 25%. How did this happen? Does anyone seriously think that this is because they collectively have worked 2 and half times harder than the rest of us?"

It doesn't matter because the labor theory of value is wrong.

Posted by: justin84 | March 7, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Boehner will lose every time because he is too stupid to know when to change directions. The "job killing" line was something out of the days before enactment of the law. We know that to be a lie, but he is so stupid that he clings to that like Huckabee to the Kenyan thing. When Boehner and the GOP realize that hard things must be done, like ending the tax bonuses to the richest one percent and elimination of subsidies to big oil, which made a TRILLION DOLLAR NET PROFIT last year, and when he starts working FOR THE PEOPLE, he might have a slim chance. Until then, he is an empty suit in a ceremonial chair doing us NO GOOD.

Posted by: ronjeske | March 7, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"Does anyone seriously think that this is because they collectively have worked 2 and half times harder than the rest of us?"

@Cossackathon, I'll bet some people do believe that. In my experience, knowing some of them, they also believe that their success in life is entirely self-made -- even though they (if I'm not mangling Ann
Richards's jab at George Bush) were born on third base and think they hit a triple. They've got theirs, and everyone else can go [fill in the blank].

I wasn't born with some of their advantages (particularly $$$), but I don't downplay or deny the ones that I did have. And, like Warren Buffett (but with much, MUCH less $$$), I support tax increases that I would pay (such as lifting the cap on income taxed for SS).

Posted by: Janine1 | March 7, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse


Would you please explain how cutting insurance payments (social security benefits?) would help! Isn't this another attempt at privatizing?

Posted by: econ51gh | March 7, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"They are also the ones paying the majority of taxes considering 46% of people don't pay a single $ in taxes.

Taxing the rich more will make them leave the country and trust me, they can easily do that."

"There are two federal tax regimes-- income taxes and FICA payroll taxes. If someone earns a paycheck, they pay FICA taxes from dollar one of income so you're wrong."
_______________________________

Don't forget federal excise taxes (gasoline, tobacco, alcohol, etc.) that are paid almost entirely by the non-wealthy.

The most recent data I saw indicated that the top 1% made about a quarter of the income and paid about a quarter of all federal tax revenues. Sounds like the tax code is already pretty flat, at least for the wealthy.

As for the wealthy leaving the US if their taxes go up, where would they go? Right now the US has the lowest overall tax burden in the world among developed countries except for Mexico, Turkey and South Korea. We could balance our budget right now only by raising taxes, and the US would STILL be in the lower half of developed countries in terms of tax burden.

Face it, taxes are very low in the US, both historically and compared with the rest of the world. Yes we have a problem with entitlements, but until we realize we have a problem with taxes that are too low, we'll get nowhere on the deficit.

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | March 7, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

This comment and comparable ones demonstrate the extent of the challenge we face in regard to the deficit when citizens think only of what a particular change means for them and them alone without regard for the common good. As long as we have a "beggar thy neighbor" approach which insists that we impose costs on others so that we avoid any costs for ourselves we will continue down the path to fiscal disaster. As citizens we need to learn to think of the needs of the nation first.

Posted by: jweley

ok. now here is the deal. the GOP is not interested whats good for the country. they are interested in what's good for individuals. they believe what's mine is mine and i'm not helping anyone. they don't believe that in this country we are all in this together. they are for indiveual freedom. not freedom for all. they yalk out of both sides of their mouth. they said the healcare reform law was cutting medicare. now they want to cut medicare. they take a position according to what they want. they are hipocrits and it wouldn't bother me one bit if they left the union and leave the united staes of america alone. tell me one thing in the last 100 years that they did to help society?

Posted by: donincardona | March 7, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr:

I do not think we should target one group. I think entitlements should be part of our budget discussion. But I don't think that tax hikes for the wealthiest few should be off the table, either.

Posted by: Cossackathon | March 7, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Entitlements, what a profane word! Entitlements are the corporate subsidies, the military waste and corruption; the insane Homeland Security Department and associated appartiks; the insane government contracting; the insane salaries and benefits of our Congress, our judges, our government officials; our military foreign aid for indirect subsidies of our war profiteers; our collusion with corporate drugs dealers, protection racketeers; the War on Drugs conspiracy; the inane department of Education; the failed Department of Defense; the failed alphabet soup cesspool of so-called Intelligence activities, and on and on! The only purpose of government is to provide shared support and security for the people; everything else is welfare for the the thieves and parasites of our nation!

Posted by: CHAOTICIAN101 | March 7, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Someone said if we taxed the rich more, they would leave the country.

1) They should have left in the 1950's when the maximum tax rate was about 90%.

2) Let them! They do nothing for me except make me pay for their tax cuts.

Posted by: Historian1960 | March 7, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

All of these long winded blow bags in Washington keep calling for 'economic growth from within' to get the economy jump started this time, after wall street ruined the economy for the entire USA.
Well, what they fail to realize, is that it was them who 'OUTSOURCED ALL OF THE FACTORY, STEEL MILL, ETC. JOBS IN THE FIRST PLACE, so there are no manufacturing jobs left in the USA to get the economy started again.
All of the big companies have moved overseas because of the tax breaks they get, again, the direct fault of the blow bags in Washington.
What we need is to get rid of each and every politician in Washington and replace all of them in 2012.
Then we could get the economy started again.

Posted by: JimW2 | March 7, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Something I didn't know about UK healthcare from Albert Edwards of Societe Generale:

Healthcare represents a major problem for the US and many other governments across the world, Edwards wrote.

"Now I don't want you to think that I am beating my nationalist man chest to tell you all that the UK's National Health Service system is the best in the world…what I do want to tell you is that it will also break the UK government," he warned.

The UK health service is thought to be the fourth-biggest employer on the planet after the Indian railways, the Chinese People's Liberation Army and Wal-Mart and, Edwards noted, it has "an unfunded pension system entirely paid out of taxes.

Incredibly, not one penny, bean or cookie has been set aside for the future pensions of UK's doctors and nurses. But don't worry, they are in good company. I stand to be corrected but I believe the same to be true for Britain's teachers, civil servants and police officers," Edwards added.

"Try switching the UK public sector from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system, as most of the private sector has done already, and the UK will descend into Yugoslavian chaos," he said"

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Boehner and Ryan are lying through their teeth as usual.

Ryan want's to dismantle Social Security as have all republicans since the act was passed. They keep on calling it an entitlement, when if fact, this is self funded and has been. Liars continue to try to point to Social Security as a drain, that's frankly a load of conservative bull feces. Also, Ryans' stupidity about vouchers for Medicare? Republicans have a short memory and they are truly stupid on this program. The for profit insurance companies would not cover the seniors back in the 50s and 60s and the resulting anger by hundreds of thousands of seniors on Constitution Avenue put the Fear OF VOTERS in the Republicans finally giving Johnson a Medicar Bill to pass.
So, now the republicans want to once again put the seniors in harms way from the for profit mongers? Yeah, sure that's the ticket. Republican Conservatives have NEVER produced anything FOR the people, only destroyed that which others put into place.

Scumbags the lot of them. But most especially Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan.

Posted by: hhodges1 | March 7, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Geez when you read this lefty article and all the lefty comments you'd never know that the Democrats controlled the House, Senate and White House from January 2009 to January 2011 and that they still control the Senate and the White House. And thus it's Boehner's fault? Just how dumb do you think we are?

Posted by: hammeresq | March 7, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"If Boehner is so serious about a new tone and an educational discussion over entitlements, then it’s time for him to admit that. "


don't hold your breath EZ

Posted by: fausto412 | March 7, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr:

I do not think we should target one group. I think entitlements should be part of our budget discussion. But I don't think that tax hikes for the wealthiest few should be off the table, either.

Posted by: Cossackathon | March 7, 2011 2:05 PM

agreed. But if you re-read your post (that has gone on to be very well liked in the comments section btw) you DID target one group, ie the wealthy.

Listen I'm not against higher taxes at all but we have to be realistic and realize that depending on what state you live in you could be paying pretty high taxes already. That's why I'm for tax reform that blends out the irregulatities in the code.

But at the end of the day there's nothing that's growing like medicare spending and until we get that under control we'll never fix our economy, I don't care what party affilliation you are.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 7, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

If Obama had any interest in the welfare of America he would have submitted a budget 5 or 6 months ago. He has made it clear to every American with an IQ above 70 that his only interest is to get a second term! Obama is a world class joke! He is trying to force the party that is not in power to make the tough choices about how to balance the budget. Obama is to much of a wimp to do his job! I have heard Democrats complain that the crying orange man is bullying him into doing things he doesn't want to do!!! What a wimp Obama is he couldn't lead a child to a toilet! Sadly there are still a few Americans stupid enough to not see they are being made fools of by Obama. He thanks you fools that continue to support him! Lord knows he needs it he has no back bone at all!!

Posted by: Loxinabox | March 7, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr:
"I do not think we should target one group. I think entitlements should be part of our budget discussion. But I don't think that tax hikes for the wealthiest few should be off the table, either." Obama refused to raise them once what makes you think he will now? What else do you want him to do? Bring the troops home the way he promised? You have not been paying very close attention have you?


Posted by: Loxinabox | March 7, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I, too, am a senior citizen. None of you stated that the "government" took money from SS and NEVER put it back. I keep sending my congressmen that they should raise the cap. No response! How much do they pay in SS? What company are are they enrolled in to get their Health Insurance? How many of them are now rich because they have been in Congress so long? I could go on and on, but this is enough for now.

Posted by: BCanter808 | March 7, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

None of you stated the fact that the "government" took money out of SS and NEVER put it back!!

Posted by: BCanter808 | March 7, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I am so upset with our government. I don't trust either party. I remember John Boehner "crying" about the poor children. Give me a break. Now the Republicans want to take away our unions.

Posted by: BCanter808 | March 7, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

@loxinabox,


Hopefully he has the stomach to raise them back to 1990's levels for everyone because as you know raising them just on the rich doesn't raise enough and we wouldn't want to be accused of not "sharing in the sacrifice" would we?

Sure I'd LOVE him to bring the troops home. I've advocated for that on these comments sections


To me it seems like President Obama's too worried sometimes about being liked than being correct. I'm wondering if he likes too much that bump in the polls he got after getting the tax cuts done.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 7, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

It is up to the President to be "Educator in Chief" on this issue and explain his plan. I'm sure he could get a good unbiased outline after an afternoon with CBO Director Elmendorf that takes the best suggestions from the various plans.

The outline is pretty simple:

1) Get income taxes back where they used to be. Reverse the Bush tax cuts, plus a 50% bracket for incomes over 500,000. Our deficit is a national security matter and we all have to contribute, some more than others.

2) Put Social Security on sound footing. Remove the cap on the payroll tax, which is presently about $107,000, perhaps after a donut at $200,000. Reduce the COLA formula by 0.5% per year, to slow the growth in benefits.

3) Reduce defense back to 3% GDP it was when we last balanced the budget in 2001, from its present 5% of GDP. Do this over ten years.

4) Eliminate certain tax deductions and exemptions. Phase out the mortgage deduction based on size of mortage. Gradually raise the % healthcare benefits paid for by employers as income.

5) Attack healthcare costs; drivers include: obesity, defensive medicine, a shortage of doctors and nurses, fraud, intervention vs. hospice, redundant payments systems, incentives that reward more care instead of better care, etc.

Eventually, we have to decide what % of GDP we want to spend (23% is about right with our aging population) and then tax to that level.

Posted by: Factified | March 7, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Re the previous comment: "Taxing the rich more will make them leave the country and trust me, they can easily do that."

If so, good. They should leave. They are not patriots. Their pledge of allegiance is to their bank accounts, not to the U.S.

And yes, the rich do pay more taxes then the rest. But not enough more. Since the top 1% take in 20% of the national income, and this share is continually rising, we can easily tax them more.

The U.S. has the lowest tax burden of all advanced democracies. The budget deficit is easily solved by simultaneously addressing economic inequality and taxing the rich more.

Instead, we get governors like Scott in Florida or Walker in Wisconsin who want to cut taxes on the rich in while cutting social services to everyone else.

Posted by: Poster3 | March 7, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

bcanter wrote:

"None of you stated that the "government" took money from SS and NEVER put it back"

That is a popular yet not relevant concept. SS is a general obligation of the US government. The payout is unrelated to the amount taken in. (unlike a 401K) There is no current problem with SS, and any future problems will be related to too few workers in the US.

Read Robert Samuelson's column in the Post today.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

So, the middle class is drowning 100 yards from shore. Boehner will pout and say it's bad for business to throw them a rope. Obama will elegantly promise to throw them a 100 yard rope. Then both men will agree to a bipartisan compromise and throw the middle class a 50 yard rope while the MSM and other "villagers" applaud their seriousness with multiple orgasms. Then everyone will wonder why the middle class is still drowning and so bloody unappreciative.

Posted by: harmil2 | March 7, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Poor old Ezra. Once again he is putting a liberal spin on a subject he knows nothing about. If you know that much about the mechanics of Obama Care and it's long term results, why aren't you in congress? I am on social security, but I know that I will receive more than I ever paid into the system. Where is that excess I am going to receive coming from? If SS had been invested and the Federal Government had quit borrowing from it, there would have been no problem. Why should the rich have to pay more percentage wise than anyone else. Just because they worked and earned it doesn't mean everyone else deserves a handout. The Democrats in the 60's and '70's passed laws making almost anyone with a back complaint elegible for Medicare at any age. Social Security was for the elderly when the reached the age of retirement; not for anyone else and especially not for SSI. I'm an old fashioned Democrat and a teacher, so I'm not among the wealthy. I just use plain common sense and realize that there needs to be cuts from top to bottom; from the military to education, to Headstart. We've spent billions in 40 year on education and Johnny still can't read and we are still behind all industrial nations in test scores. BILLIONS WASTED! And Obama wants to give all of them more. Go ahead Republicans. Cut everything and if the Senate and Obama do not agree, then lets eliminate their positions for them in 2012. I for one DEMOCRAT will help!

Posted by: jjeleven | March 7, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr:

Guilty. It is just that it seems to me that 99% percent of the budget debate is where to cut. This is a discussion of an article on entitlements. In my own humble way, I'm trying to change the terms of debate. :-)

Posted by: Cossackathon | March 7, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

@cossackathon,

Thanks. You'd be better off hanging around here more. You'd not be in the minority in your feelings I'd suspect.

BTW in regards to entitlements if people had an honest discussion I'm sure we could come to agreements on things that need to be cut or reined in and also give popular givebacks to those that need it, ie means testing for SS (they already have it for medicare in part B) etc.

What i'm against though is any group saying "X" needs to give more while simultaneously putting tax policy in place that requires them to give more and act like they don't give at all. That's just wrong and doesn't help the conversation at all.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 8, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse

IT IS NOT ENTITLEMENTS....boneher!

It is JOBS AND GOV"T WASTE...This is a diversion attempt away from the FACT THAT THE REPUBS HAVE NOT CREATED ON JOB..AS PROMISED..IF ANYTHING THEIR PROPOSALS ARE JOB KILLING!

Posted by: jetlone | March 8, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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