Beat the Press

Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting


Is the Federal Government Going Bankrupt? Maybe it Should Stop Spending Money Publishing Scare Stories

What would the long-term federal deficit look like if the cost of the country’s health care system continued to explode, so that in thirty years it costs four times as much per person as that of other rich countries? Well, if I had nothing else to do with my time, I might calculate these numbers.

Fortunately, I have a busy life, so I really don’t have a great deal of time for such trivia. Unfortunately, other economists are less busy and do calculate such trivia. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the St. Louis Federal Reserve Board publishes these calculations as though they are serious economics. However, the real problem is that columnists in the Times use this stuff to make the case for cutting Social Security.

The story here is real simple. The U.S. has a broken health care system. If it is never fixed, it will have a devastating impact on the economy. It will also lead to severe budget problems. Any competent economist/ reporter would see these projections as another way of demonstrating the need for national health care reform. They tell us nothing about the budget situation.


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