Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This is how bad it's gotten

Christopher C. Jennings, in NEJM, informs us that a "strange bedfellow" coalition has arisen among health care consumer advocates, states, health care providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, all of whom are hoping that the Congressional "super committee" fails to reach an agreement and we get the automatic $1.2 trillion in spending cuts instead.

He doesn't specifically name any advocacy group or organization that has come to this conclusion, so we'll have to take his word for it. But the case he makes seems pretty sound. There is apparently no way that the Republicans on the committee will agree to any increased revenues. The legislation that set up the committee protects Medicaid from the automatic cuts and calls for only a fairly modest restraint on Medicare spending should the Committee fail to reach agreement. The likelihood is that an agreement would actually be far worse, in part because Democrats would have to give something away to get any of the president's middle income tax cuts and investment programs through.

I would add that the automatic cuts include a big whack to military spending, which I strongly favor and which also would not happen under an agreement, meaning even more would have to come out of good stuff. By the way, with no action by Congress, the Bush tax cuts will expire next year, also good, and no way that happens with a super committee agreement either.

The bad news is that medical research will get an 8% automatic cut, and that will really hurt. But you know what? Congress can just pass a bill that reverses it. A super committee agreement will require that the president and the Democrats in congress agree to some profound evil. If they just don't go there, they can keep their policy positions intact and keep on fighting. (Not that they are likely to do so, but they could in principle.)

So yes, I'm on board with failure of the super committee. We'll finally get to take a half decent slice out of the military boondoggle that is bankrupting our country, corrupting our culture, and terrorizing the planet. This is an opportunity we should embrace.

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