Obama on CBS: Time to Get Entitlement Programs Under Control

In a far-ranging CBS Interview, the new president promises a detailed review of all entitlement programs, code for Social Security and Medicare. While I think there is waste in these programs that needs attention, I hope the reviews find it in the administrative aspects of the programs, and in medical cost-accounting. Certainly there are some people engaged in fraud, but over many years of practicing Social Security law, the people I saw getting cut off are those who can’t defend themselces – the mentally ill and the homeless. Back in the 80’s there were wholesale terminations of benefits for these people, it seemed quite calculated. Obama brings a great intellingence and diligence to this work: let’s hope this is not just one more study program that produces reports that no one reads:

“President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare “bargain” with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.

That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a “fiscal responsibility summit” before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

“What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further,” he said. “We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s..”Social Security, we can solve,” he said, waving his left hand. “The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable. . . . We can’t solve Medicare in isolation from the broader problems of the health-care system.”

Medicare, the government health program for retirees and the disabled, is projected to be insolvent by 2019, according to the most recent report by the Social Security and Medicare trustees. Over the next two decades, Medicare spending is expected to double, consuming nearly one-quarter of the federal budget.”

See interview here.