Poor Fred Hiatt. For years, this Editor of the Editorial page of the Washington Post has made his named appearances on the editorial page (he daily bloviates the main ed lead anonymously) only to call for cutting Social Security, and occasionally Medicare as well. This has been his schtick for many years. Now it is over, but he fails to recognize it.
OK, for some time I have been ridiculing him over this obsession of his, which he has imposed on many other regular writers on WaPo's ed page, including R.J. Samuelson, Ruth Marcus, and even more recently, Catherine Rampell. I almost wrote on this when he went nuts over this on Monday, but Dean Baker whonked on him pretty solidly immediately, pointing out how stupid and ridiculous he looked, declaring that while today's US debt/GDP ratio is 74%, with near zero interest rates, ten years from now the CBO says it will be 78%, which Hiatt hysterically declared to be "dangerous." The 104% forecast for 2039 he declared to be "unsustainable," which Dean correctly pointed out was totally ridiculous. So, I did not post anything.
Needless to say, the ridicule has mounted, some of it more general, some of it more specific. So, Paul Krugman has pointed out the problem of "secret deficit lovers," people who have made a living whining about deficit dangers, but now that the latest reports say the deficit is going down are unhappy, because their longstanding calls to cut benefits for old people are not likely to be taken seriously in the near future. PK named no names, but Fred Hiatt is near the top of the list, if not absolutely at the top. More personally, John Podesta, whom he cited in his Monday WaPo piece, perhaps the single most stupid and embarassing column he has ever written, has dumped all over him in on Twitter with an accompanying column in yesterday's WaPo, as linked to by Mark Thoma.
So, let me add my two bits to this that none of the above have yet said. First of all, it is amazing that when confronted with good news from the CBO that medical care costs are falling, leading to declining future deficit projections, Hiatt does not applaud, indeed, does not anywhere in his column even note that this is a change in the future projections. He does note the new data, without noting how it reduces the hysteria of his past columns, but he continues to whine that while in the past Obama appointed the Bowles-Simpson commission that called for cuts in senior entitlements, along with tax increases that GOP members of that commission would not accept (see Paul Ryan), which somehow for years Hiatt has accepted as something irresolutely unbridgeable (he briefly noted that tax increases were one way out of senior entitlement problems, but did not remotely recommend them, despite longstanding polls showing support for exactly this solution to any such problem seriously arising in the future), he simply cannot bring himself to admit that the problem he has been carrying on about for so many years so hysterically simply is not what he claimed it was. He, and many of his close pals, have simply been wrong wrong wrong.
So, here we have poor Hiatt, resolutely ignoring good news. Not a whisper in his column that in fact the CBO is now forecasting not only continuing deficit reductions in the near future (with most of the US public still mistakenly believing that they are higher, with no help from WaPo on informing them otherwise). CBO carefully does not project forward further reductions in med care costs, and Hiatt does not even remotely raise the possibility of such, much less the idea that maybe the way to avoid having a debt/GDP ratio over 100 a quarter of a century from now might be to focus on continuing the effort of Obama to bring down med care costs in the US to OECD levels. Dean Baker has long pointed out that if our med care costs were at OECD levels, we would not have this long term deficit problem at all. And there are many obvious ways to move in that direction, from reducing the power of pharma patents to loosening immigration rules for physicians, along with many others.
So, I feel sorry for Fred. Beating up on seniors who have paid in their taxes for what they are getting has been the one an only topic that has inspired him to write columns under his own name for many years. The new projections of lower deficits, good news to most of us, simply do not register with him. Actually, they probably do. But Krugman is right. As much as anybody, he is the longstanding VSP in DC who has been whining for years about cutting Social Security and Medicare, whose excuse for this argument has simply disappeared, but he and his pals simply are not willing to face the new facts.