May 31, 2012 at 9:36 am
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
There’s a million counter-arguments—why not a tax? (tried it…couldn’t get it through Albany)—where does this stop?—why just big sodas?—this won’t stop people from buying two 16 oz drinks—what about consumer sovereignty!?
I say: good for you, Mayor. You’re taking action on a national epidemic (and look at those sugar stacks in the pic below)—don’t let the nattering nabobs of negativity, the sugar lobby, or anyone else derail you.
The WaPo, on the other hand, is not reading OTE. This oped on Medicare makes the age old mistake of throwing around big numbers with no context to try to scare people. The rest of us may be lazy scofflaws, wallowing in denial (we’re “Clueless” according to the title), but the author alone has the courage to look at the fact that we can no longer afford social insurance dead in the eye.
The net present value of the transfer — the amount that would have to be set aside today to fund Medicare’s future intergenerational promises — has grown to at least $25 trillion, as calculated by the Government Accountability Office. This number is buried in footnotes of the annual Treasury-OMB report and is so large (almost twice the $14 trillion value of all public U.S. companies) that it defies comprehension.
Um…actually, it’s right here in table 8, and if you go down a few lines from the fear tatic of $25 trillion, you’ll see that over the 75 year horizon of this estimate, it amounts to less than 3% of GDP. That’s right—our fearless author has compared a 75-year cumulative number to a 2011 number (i.e., the value of companies today). And we’re the clueless ones.
The rest of the piece basically gins up more angst about the well-known problem that health spending is growing faster than wages, or for that matter, GDP. But it is essential to recognize that this is not solely a Medicare, or government, problem. In fact, the cost differential is greater on the private side of the health sector. And, yes, we’ve got to address that. To the author’s credit, he gets this right:
The good news is that this problem is fixable. Other countries spend far less on health care and have better health outcomes. Reform of our health-care system would dramatically reduce the cost of future Medicare benefits and reduce the tax burden on future generations. But Americans are angry with their elected leaders, and they lack the information critical to understanding the need for change.
I’m not sure if we lack information—at CBPP, we put out a stream of good, pretty readable info on this issue. I am sure that bad information, some of which is in this very piece, doesn’t help.
Finally, I stand corrected…they are reading OTE over there on 15th street…but they’re not letting it seep in!
The Fact Checker returns to the issue of President Obama’s spending record, a dustup I review here (and expand into a forthcoming column later today in the Rolling Stone). This is extremely, extremely frustrating—and as a creature of such arguments, it takes a lot to get me that frustrated.
Here’s the thing. As I stress in my piece, the WaPo made a good point about correcting the endpoint in the original piece (the MarketWatch article which started this). They made a less good point about assigning the TARP costs in 2009 to Obama (it was clearly a program legislated under Bush). But even if you accept their method of doing this, the qualitative facts of the case don’t change: the rate of spending growth under Obama was the lowest since Eisenhower in the 1950s!
This flies directly in the face of something everyone is this town–nay, this country–knows to be true: Obama is a runaway huge spender! Except it’s not true. And instead a grasping that key point—the very type of point for which we desperately need fact checkers—the WaPo is obsessed with quibbles about how to score the TARP.
One more thing. The Fact Checker suggests that OMB and CBO weigh in on this. I agree re CBO, but if you want OMB’s take, just go to Table 1.1 right here and take the annual growth rate of outlays, 2009-13. You will get 2%. And that result too is the lowest since Ike.
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