The NYT again complained in its news section that Congress did not make cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, telling readers that the debt reduction plans under consideration "defer tough decisions." (Here's the previous editorial.) It then turns to Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Peter Peterson-funded Concord Coalition, to tell readers that the real budget problems are the entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Of course the reality is that Social Security is projected to be fully solvent for the next quarter century with no changes whatsoever. Even after that date the trustees' projections show that it will be able to pay almost 80 percent of benefits indefinitely.
Medicare and Medicaid show much more rapid cost growth, however the problem with these programs is the projected growth of private sector health care costs. The United States already pays more than twice as much per person for health care as other wealthy countries. This gap is projected to grow in the decades ahead. If the health care system is not fixed it will have a devastating impact on the economy regardless of what is done with the public sector health care program. By contrast, if we fix our health care system, then there is no long-run deficit problem.