The writer, Nancy Folbre, compares the growth in spending on Social Security with the growth in spending on Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, today in the Daily Beast we get a great graph from Andrew Sullivan which points out that we are using health care less and costs are still going up and up. Ms. Folbre further suggests that it is the current paranoia about the “welfare state” that is the real problem.
Another reminder that the long-run budget problem is a health care cost problem, a problem that exists in both the private sector and in government. This is Nancy Folbre:
…Spending on Social Security, often treated as the greatest bugaboo of our aging society, has remained at 4.5 to 5 percent of G.D.P. since 1985. The already carried out transition to a higher retirement age is contributing to cost containment.
The scary increases in government spending have come in Medicaid and Medicare. These two programs, which consumed 1.2 percent of G.D.P. in 1975, reached 4.1 percent of G.D.P. in 2008.
These increases have less to do with government spending than with the increased costs of health care, regardless of who is paying the bill. …
All government programs deserve critical scrutiny, and there is plenty of room for meaningful debate over the relative efficiency of public versus private provision. But there is no evidence that social spending in the United States is approaching some upper limit of feasibility.
What is unsustainable (or should be) is the current level of confusion, misinformation and paranoia about the future of the so-called welfare state.