Some of us didn't take the skills deficit seriously, but David Brooks shows us that it is a real problem. Apparently the New York Times cannot find a conservative columnist who can deal with basic issues of logic and arithmetic. Brooks is very upset because the budget deal apparently does not include any cuts in Medicare.
He also is very angry that so many people insist on relying on arithmetic and pointing out that the "$1 trillion" deficits are almost entirely due to the economic downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble and not some fundamental imbalance of taxes and spending. He scoffs:
"They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living."
Wow, those damn math nerds!
On the more fundamental question of the long-term deficit projections that have Brooks so excited, fans of arithmetic keep pointing out, to Brooks' frustration and anger, that it is all due to our broken health care system. If our per person health care costs were comparable to those in Germany, Canada, or any other wealthy country we would be looking at huge budget surpluses in the future, not the enormous deficits that have Brooks so excited.
Serious people therefore talk about fixing our health care system. (Trade is one possible route, although committed protectionists like Brooks apparently never even consider it.) In fact, recent cost numbers suggest that we may already be on the right track. But Brooks doesn't look at numbers. He is really angry because the public doesn't want to suffer and politicians who want to keep their jobs are not anxious to make them suffer.
It's best to let Brooks tell the story himself:
"Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. ...
"Most members of Congress are responding efficiently to the popular will. A large number of reactionary Democrats reject any measure to touch Medicare or other entitlement programs. A large number of impotent Republicans talk about reducing the debt, but are incapable of forging a deal that balances tax increases with spending cuts."