Dean Baker, intrepid economist at the Center for Economic Policy & Research (CEPR) who scrutinizes mainstream media reporting on the economy, has this gem about the little-discussed impact of health care costs on the deficit.
"If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as any of the 35 countries with longer life expectancies, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses for the indefinite future."
Baker points readers to CEPR's "Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator," which allows users to compare baseline federal deficit projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) against the projected deficit under the CBO's "Low Health Care Cost" calculations.
Chart h/t Center for Economic & Policy Research
If you're curious to see how we stack up against the rest of the developed world, CEPR's calculator also lends a glimpse into what our projected deficits would look like if we spent the same amount of money per person on health care as they do in 30 other countries.
The main point here is that, while deficits aren't to be ignored, there are other puzzle pieces that are being brushed aside in the national debate. In this case, we're forgetting that inefficiencies, inequities, and the allure of private profits in health care are doing some major damage to our federal budget. Let's stop forgetting, start learning and sharing the important information that's going to move us in a better direction, and turn our lawmakers' attention to solutions that work for all of us.
Baker's daily posts can be seen in his Beat the Press blog on the CEPR website.
For more good sense on deficit madness, read Robert Kuttner's "What Planet Are Deficit Hawks Living On?"