Sunday, August 07, 2011

It's dangerous to leave the future welfare of seniors in the hands of "The (Super) Committee"

I remember the idea of a “Committee” from the days of the military draft back in the 1960s, as student deferments were to be ended. The “Local Board”, whose members didn’t seem accountable to anyone, could decide whom to put on the front lines.

So we have a Super Committee now on the budget. It serves us old turkey right before Thanksgiving. Congress must take it or leave it.  The Committee can do what it wants.

There is some talk that the Committee will stick kick the toughest cans down the road, until after the 2012 election. That means it could be likely to keep its cuts on entitlements to those of future beneficiaries.  There’s not much question that retirement ages will have to rise, and benefits will have to increase more slowly, if at all.

But, as I’ve noted, there’s not much question that, if it really wanted to, it could demand some sacrifices of current beneficiaries, at least those with “means”. Maybe not much on Social Security because of legal challenges that could result on the Trust Fund issue, but certainly much higher deductibles on Medicare benefits, based on means, could be put in immediately.   And Congress will no longer have the ability to exclude any specific controversial provision from the final bill.  If you need coronary bypass surgery and have some cash, you could wind up parting with a lot more of it first.

It could mean that some seniors wonder about whether to “get everything done” this fall.  Or maybe accept the way it used to be, before lifespans started to increase rapidly while the number of adult children to support the extra years did not: everybody gets old, and there is a limit to how much we can do, at public or even private dole, for anyone. 

One other thing to keep in mind: despite all the talk about entitlements as the biggest drain on the debt, they probably aren’t. The biggest problem is probably contract overruns.

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