Is It France Yet?

Monday, March 05, 2007 at 03:11 AM

As a rule, I rarely watch TV. Rarely. But, I was intrigued by this piece they ran on CBS' 60 Minutes last night, which I detailed a little earlier, about how our nation's chief financial controller says Medicare will wipe us out...

You can read the summary here.

Anyways, seems David Walker, the nation's comptroller general, is playing Al Gore, traveling the nation, insisting that as soon as we "Boomers" start to retire (Very soon, as close as 1-1-2008), the Medicare expenditures will put a whopping big crush on the economy.

And he's right, it will. But, and this is part of what we do at Watchers, we analyze stuff like this and come up with another angle to dangle.

It's what gets glanced over, of course.

Part of the problem, Walker acknowledges, is that there won't be enough wage earners to support the benefits of the baby boomers. "But the real problem, Steve, is health care costs. Our health care problem is much more significant than Social Security," he says.

Well, doggies. Wasn't that part of the problem to begin with? That our nation sucks canal water when it comes insuring everyone's health care? And didn't a former presidential candidate tell us he could fix it? By eliminating Chimp tax cuts alone???

Let's go on...

The problem with Medicare, Walker says, is people keep living longer, and medical costs keep rising at twice the rate of inflation. But instead of dealing with the problem, he says, the president and the Congress made things much worse just three years ago when they expanded the Medicare program to include prescription drug coverage.

"The prescription drug bill was probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s," Walker argues.

How so, dude?

Asked why, Walker says, "Well, because we promise way more than we can afford to keep. Eight trillion dollars added to what was already a 15 to $20 trillion under-funding. We're not being realistic. We can't afford the promises we've already made, much less to be able, piling on top of 'em."

With one stroke of the pen, Walker says, the federal government increased existing Medicare obligations nearly 40 percent over the next 75 years.

"We'd have to have eight trillion dollars today, invested in treasury rates, to deliver on that promise," Walker explains.

Asked how much we actually have, Walker says, "Zip."

Obviously, it's a mess, but many of us knew that some time ago, when Chimpy and his robber barron ilk blew that part of the Medicare mess. I asked, as did many others, "Why in the name of Sam Hell didn't they do like Canada and insist on negotiating for cheaper meds?" Answer: Because Big Pharma has their hand up many a politico's rectum, of course.

So, what's the solution?

"Well it's gonna come from additional taxes, or it's gonna come from restructuring these promises, or it's gonna come from cutting other spending," Walker says.

He is not suggesting that the nation do away with Medicare or prescription drug benefits. He does believe the current health care system is way too expensive, and overrated.

"On cost we're number one in the world. We spend 50 percent more of our economy on health care than any nation on earth," he says.

"We have the largest uninsured population of any major industrialized nation. We have above average infant mortality, below average life expectancy, and much higher than average medical error rates for an industrialized nation," Walker points out.

Yep. Leave it to CBS to slant the entire story as a financial "doom" piece, rather than advertise the thing as what it was all along: A strong and stirring call, albeit from a money angle, to reform our nation's health care from the joke it is into something approximating that of the other civilized nations.

"We're gonna have to dramatically and fundamentally reform our health care system in installments over the next 20 years," Walker tells Kroft.

And if we don't?

"And if we don't, it could bankrupt America," Walker argues.

Fine, but how to? Here, they gloss over the fix, another take on "belling the cat". Fine, I can supply the muscle:

-Taxes will go up, period. At which point, I feel like one of the French reformers prior to their revolution, screaming my head off: The rich and corporations are going to have to abandon the Chimp tax cuts and return to paying a more reasonable shake. They don't. They haven't since Raygun. They've no intention to hand them back anytime soon. Sound familiar, history buffs?

-The entire health care system of this nation must become centralized, and yes, cleaned up. Big Pharma needs their collective pricing dropped, or, face competitive bids from overseas drug makers, which they fear. Their is NO reason for paying the prices we do for meds, NOT ONE.

-And, and of course, we need to toss out the Chimpster, Cheneyburton, The Shoe Lady and the rest of the Republicrud Regime. No "administration" to date has EVER been so financially DUMB.

Walker is correct, unless repaired, mended or redone, it will Chapter 11 this nation. But that's not all doing so, of course. BS wars fought in the name of Exxon-Mobil do not help us out financially, they drain us and badly. We piss away billions per day on Iraq, and with nothing to gain from it, except, oh, oil contracts for Cheneyburton and Exxon-Mobil, of course.

And, it is not just we seniors who need good health care: As I write, too many, right now, are sick and cannot afford a trip to the doctor, let alone a hospital stay, let alone pay for meds that are priced higher than the downpayment on a passenger jet. (My meds, without coverage, at one take: $900 per, all totalled.)

The REAL story here is this: We've a nation of robber barons, out to make trillions on the peasant classes. The middle class is becoming extinct. The ranks of the poor grow daily.

I just, then, remind one and all what that will eventually entail, except it's very bloody, very dangerous, and sadly, tends to happen when we forget that the road to opulence and wealth comes with a very painful exit to it.

I just wish Walker would quote Dickens in his little shows. It might scare some. It always did me.