Social Security, Medicare, or Both?

by Samuel R. Staley

The key to reforming the budget and tackling the debt will be entitlement reform. Some may be disappointed that the budget plan presented by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan addresses Medicare but not Social Security. That’s a fair criticism, but Ryan provides some insight into this political strategy in an interview broadcast earlier on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Social Security, he notes, is going to implode on itself and force reform in the not so distant future. That will force everyone to come to the table and reform it. Medicare, Ryan pointed out, is a ticking time bomb (my words) and the primary driver of increases in the national debt (his insight). Moreover (or more importantly), the explosives packed in this time bomb are the Obamacare requirements that load up future spending obligations. So, Ryan reasons, this has to be addressed first and foremost.

I would prefer to see the whole entitlement mess addressed, but it’s hard to argue with Ryan’s logic. Medicare is a fiscal nightmare exponentially made worse by Obamacare, but the effects are so far in the future that many citizens and elected officials are tempted to kick the can down the road. The House Budget proposal doesn’t let Medicare reform hide and brings this critical issue to the forefront of the fiscal policy debate.

— Samuel R. Staley is Robert W. Galvin Fellow and Director of Urban & Land Use Policy at the Reason Foundation.

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