This country is being hoodooed by the oldest magic show trick in the book -- misdirection. The fictional crisis of entitlement spending is just a new version of the stain on Monica Lewinsky's dress, the latest cheap trick by the super-rich to turn our attention away from the truth.
For a glimpse of truth, take a peek at a story in The New York Times this morning about an outfit called "Fix the Debt," a group of business-types in Washington who have struck a pose of helpful concern on the national debt. They say they just want to help the government identify the cuts it needs to make.
But The Times, after taking a closer look at these helpful old souls, finds some snout and claw protruding from their robes. The outfit is dominated by professional lobbyists for the big money, eager to bring government a basket of helpful entitlement cuts to make, especially in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But when they take off the robes and return to their day jobs, it's their teeth and claws that turn red, attacking any attempt to touch an array of huge tax breaks for the wealthy and for major corporations. In fact many of the Fix-the-Debt activists are pulling down fat six-figure fees for their success so far at doing just the opposite -- worsening the debt by carving out tax breaks for the wealthy.
Just a few of those would be the carried interest loophole, which gives an enormous income tax break to people in the private equity industry, and the active financing exception, by which companies like G.E. and other multinationals are given fat tax breaks to reward them for shipping jobs overseas.
The Times story points out that Fix the Debt's "core principles" talk about the need to slash social safety net programs like Medicaid but make no mention at all of military spending. Interesting oversight, given that defense spending is more than twice what we spend on Medicaid as a percentage of gross domestic product. Could this oversight have anything to do with the fact that a co-founder of the Fix the Debt, David M. Cote, is chief executive of Honeywell, a major defense contractor?
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The book-end to this story is another one in The Times today about a new study confirming that the United States has fallen almost to the bottom of the heap among the world's rich countries in healthcare and life expectancy for young people. The study convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council cites a number of probable causes for our deplorable under-50 mortality rates, from drugs to guns to automobile accidents, but it also points to a major over-arching factor: We spend more than any other country for healthcare and get less.
Why would that be? The study cites a fragmented healthcare system and the high number of people who have no healthcare insurance. We could take that as code for a healthcare system run by insurance companies for the wealthy -- a system that is greasing our slide to Third World status.
In fact, if they're going to insist on calling the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare," maybe we need to come up with a pejorative nickname for what they've got in mind instead. How about Bananacare?
What these forces adamantly do not want us to focus on or see is our real-life ability to resolve entitlement funding through the simple expedient of making big companies and rich people pay their damned taxes at rates anywhere near what the rest of the civilized world requires. Oh, no! Don't look over there! Look over here at these greedy old people sopping up Medicaid benefits and living high on the hog in Medicaid nursing homes. No? You won't look at that? How about Monica Lewinsky's dress again? Surely there is something they can get you to look at other than the glaring truth before your very eyes.