David Brooks: Why reform health care if we’re all doomed?

New York Times columnist David Brooks Friday outlines the cultural revolution the country will have to undergo in order to survive. It’s not upbeat. It’s not very hopeful. It’s a little like something cranky grampa would be muttering to himself under a blanket on the porch. First: No more buying; only saving. Second: Politicians must make themselves unpopular, partly by not reforming health care because there’s just no way to pay for it, dagnammit.

[T]he political challenges [are] most hellacious… Basically, everything that a politician might do to make voters happier in the near term will have horrible long-term consequences. Stimulate the economy too much now and you wind up with ruinous inflation down the road. Preserve failing companies and you wind up with Japanese stagnation. Cushion the decline in living standards with easy money now and you just move from a housing bubble to a commodities bubble.

The members of the political class … will have to refrain from doing anything that might further damage America‚Äôs fiscal position, which is extremely fragile. That means not passing a health care reform package unless it is really and truly paid for. That means forming a Social Security commission next year to tackle that entitlement problem.

As Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., might put it: “To my colleagues who are fear mongering and saying we should do nothing to reform health care, I say, ‘How bout we do something about the $700 billion per year wasted today on ineffective health care!'”

Conservative Brooks curiously seems to condemn Bush-style pandering politics while also embracing Bush bugaboos.

On the Social Security “entitlement” deficit referenced by Brooks that Pres. Bush campaigned to portray as so dangerously massive, for example… The deficit is projected to be 0.6 percent of GDP over the next 75 years according to the Social Security Trustees and only 0.4 percent according to the Congressional Budget Office. Compare those figures to the long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts, which add up to about 2 percent of GDP or about $11.1 trillion, almost triple the amount.

h/t the Economic Policy Institute’s Monique Morrissey

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