Thomas Schaller notes the irony of the fact that the elderly are complaining the most about government involvement in health care while simultaneously receiving the most government health care dollars.
Here's a significant excerpt from Mr. Schaller's column that addresses the widespread ignorance of how much the federal government spends on health care for the elderly:
So let's have a national debate about the government spending for health care, fine. But as we do, let's be clear about where - or rather, on whom - the government spends the bulk of its health care money: senior citizens.
Of course, elderly Americans have more expensive health care needs. And I can honestly say I've never met a single person who begrudges senior citizens the opportunity to live out their retirement years without enduring sickness or pain.
Nor, by the way, does President Barack Obama begrudge them. In fact, a significant chunk of his speech Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress was dedicated to allaying the concerns of seniors. No other group received attention.
"More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years," Mr. Obama said at a Saturday health care rally in Minnesota, as further assurance. "That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan. Not one dollar."
And yet, on our televisions we see enraged senior citizens at health care town halls with signs warning about the rise of socialism in America. That is, the group most worried about government intervention into health care is the group that benefits from the greatest government investment in public health care the planet has ever witnessed. Are you kidding me?
Prior to the government's redistributive investments in Social Security and Medicare, poverty and illness made for a brutal end-of-life experience for millions of seniors. According the National Bureau of Economic Research, "a large increase in the incomes of the elderly stemming from pre-Social Security social programs and the phase-in of the Social Security system has coincided with suicide rates for that group dropping 56 percent since 1930."
Yet we have to listen to knuckleheads like Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, scaring seniors with bogus warnings about the government creating "death panels." But before Social Security and Medicare, the sad truth is that many seniors issued what we might call self-imposed death panel verdicts: They took their own lives.
I don't remember this many seniors complaining about socialism during the past four decades, a period during which the poverty rate among seniors was reduced to a third of what it was, Medicare and Medicaid expanded drastically, and Mr. Obama's Republican predecessor in the White House pushed through an expensive prescription drug benefit - in short, an era that witnessed a giant, "socialist" transfer of cash from younger Americans to their parents and grandparents, some of whom are now complaining about a too-big government.
As I've said before, in my darker moments I sometimes think that the elderly are the enemy.
Paul Krugman looks at how most of the economics profession bungled the financial crisis.
At one point in the article you'll see Prof. Krugman quickly refer to a paper (PDF, 332 KB) by Raghuram Rajan that presciently warned about the systemic risk that was being created by the sort of financial innovation that contributed to the crisis. Prof. Rajan's paper is very long and somewhat technical at times, but overall it's fairly readable.
In the general discussion (PDF, 100 KB) held after the paper was given, you'll see that the august Larry Summers wasn't too impressed, saying that he found "the basic, slightly lead-eyed premise of this paper to be largely misguided."