Friday, November 28, 2014

How A "Giant Welfare State" Does Not Cover All Its Citizens For Health Insurance

WaPo's Robert J. Samuelson is at it again here on Black Friday, berating us all  for not making "unpopular choices" regarding "who deserves benefits, how much and why?" without for once mentioning that a bunch of Americans do not have health insurance, making it the only OECD nation not to do so, even as he reveals that the US is the second biggest "welfare state" in the OECD, behind only France.  Yes, for direct government social spending US is 23rd at 19% of GDP, behind the OECD average of 22%.  But, take into account indirect support through the private sector, especially tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, well, then we are at 30% of GDP for our hybrid system, behind only the 32% of France, oh horror or horrors!

So, anybody thinking about it more than RJS will understand that a major reason we spend so much is the high cost of our health care, gobbling 18% of GDP, compared to 12% for France and less for most other OECD nations.  So, we can spend all this much and still be the only OECD nation not providing health insurance for everybody, but this is not a problem for RJS.  Obviously we need to cut benefits from current recipients.  Not a word about further efforts to cut health care costs through such things that Dean Baker proposes, such as scaling back drug patents or opening up immigration for physicians.  What a joke, but not a surprise from the gang at the WaPo ed page and particularly that non-economist  economist, Robert J. Samuelson.

Barkley Rosser


Larry Signor said...

It is odd that RJS does not mention fossil fuel subsidies, ag. subsidies, national defense subsidies, mortgage interest subsidies (yes, the mortgage interest rate deduction is a subsidy), TBTF bank subsidies via under priced liquidity to the financial sector, cap-ex subsidies etc. He must consider these subsidies to be deserved, where as health and safety net subsidies are gimmes. said...


There is a rather long list of things that he could have/should have mentioned. But he never mentions that stuff, or very rarely anyway. He is obsessed with "entitlements," even going off about how we use this word, clearly indicating that doing so is limiting us from taking them away from all these undeserving folks who get them without ever mentioning that we have lots of people not getting them that get them in all the other OECD nations.

I fear that with Jeff Bezos now owning WaPo, the pressure will be to do more of this sort of berating the "giant welfare state" without analyzing all the other problems/issue in the budget that should or could be addressed. As a more or less libertarian, Bezos will clearly like this line, and it is probably what WaPo ed page editor Fred Hiatt throws at him to keep Bezos off his back. "See, all of us here are going after all those welfare bums on social security and medicare, so please do not make me fire anybody from my staff, pretty please."

Myrtle Blackwood said...

The Liberal-National Coalition government in Australia wants to impose a $7 cash payment for every visit to the doctor, with the rest of the doctor's fee covered by Medicare. I understand that there will be an additional $7 fee for every prescription issued by the doctor as well.

The Coalition doesn't have the numbers to get the $7 fee through the Senate, with Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers against the move.
This right-wing government may bring the policy in via regulation, thus bypassing the least this move is not ruled out.

This proposed action is designed - not to reduce the federal budget deficit - but to fund the government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Tony Abbott (the elected Au Prime Minister) went to the election lying to the public and promising not to introduce any new taxes, etc. Whatever it took to win the election it seems.

Thornton Hall said...

The man has a job because he when to high school with Donald Graham. In 15 years in Washington DC I have never heard anyone--left, right, or center--refer to a single word he has written.

But treating him as someone worthy of commenting on serves an important purpose: reinforcing the (false) idea that there are other, better economists with methods that lead to understanding and insight.

So, carry on... said...


Interesting comment about Samuelson and Donald Graham. That would explain a lot.

I have only one objection. Your reference to "other economists." That assumes that Robert J. Samuelson is "an economist." It is true that he writes regularly about economics, but it is my understanding that he has studied very little economics. Some might consider this a virtue, but I do not and neither do most of my economist friends who pay any attention to him.

It has been widely noted that he is almost certainly partly trading on the fact that uninformed readers may somehow think he is related to the late Paul Samuelson. Not only is this false, but is also not related to the highly capable, if less well known, Larry Samuelson, who is also not related to Paul, although Paul's son, Bill Samuelson of Boston University, is a pretty decent economist.

But RJS is just a running joke, basically a fraud.

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