Wednesday, October 3, 2007


DD-Day? I don't get the name but we'll all be seeing the consequences. Hey--I'm a boomer--and I never expected SS to be workable for me.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sleepwalking Toward DD-Day

By George F. Will

Oct. 8, 2007 issue - Last Thursday was 96 days before DD-Day, the day the Demographic Deluge begins. That is Jan. 1, when the first of 78 million baby boomers reach 62, the age at which a majority of Social Security recipients begin to receive that entitlement. Social Security is unsustainable as currently configured, but is a picture of health compared with another middle-class entitlement, Medicare.

On Thursday, the Senate, following the House, voted to create another open-ended middle-class entitlement. Congress is not inhibited by the Law of Holes, which is: When you are in a hole, quit digging.

Although it is the elderly who are devouring the federal budget—and through it, a huge share of the economy's future production—the State Children's Health Insurance Program is (mostly) about children, at least ostensibly. But it also is about a deep divide between the parties.

The struggle over SCHIP is an unusual Washington dust-up—one that actually is as portentous as Washingtonians, with their flair for (self) dramatization, say it is. It is a proxy fight over the future of the welfare state, meaning the trajectory of government and the burdens it will place on the economy, which, by its dynamism, must generate the revenues to pay the bills.

SCHIP was created in 1997 by a Republican-controlled Congress. Today's Democratic-controlled Congress wants to transform its mission. It began as a program whereby the federal government would subsidize state governments in providing health insurance for children from households not poor enough (generally 200 percent above the poverty line) to qualify for Medicaid but not affluent enough to afford to buy insurance. Were it to become law, the new SCHIP would be a long stride toward unlimited federal funds working as incentives for states to expand eligibility to more and more affluent families.

It would immediately include some with incomes 400 percent of the poverty line ($83,000 for a family of four). Over time, its "mission creep" would continue. Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, says that the new SCHIP would enroll 2.8 million more children, but 1.1 million of them would be from families for whom SCHIP had become an incentive to drop their private insurance. To that, some liberals say, sotto voce: Good.

Why? In the perennial tension between the competing values of freedom and equality, conservatives favor freedom, which inevitably increases unequal social outcomes. Liberals' mission is the promotion of equality, understood as equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.


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