Gov. Pawlenty has a strong record in Minnesota and can be impressive one-on-one, but I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by his policy proposals so far. So the news that he is going to be putting out his own budget plan has me a little concerned.
According to The Hill, “On Social Security he would gradually raise the retirement age for new entrants to retirement programs and implement means testing for cost-of-living adjustments.” I’ve got nothing against raising the retirement age, but it seems politically riskier than other ways of saving the needed money: in particular, adjusting the benefits formula so that the affluent retirees of tomorrow get the same benefits as the affluent retirees of today, with an adjustment for inflation. Keeping high earners from getting COLAs, on the other hand, just seems screwy. In a well-designed system, their benefits would keep up with inflation. It seems particularly weird to leave their initial benefits levels on an upward trajectory and then let inflation erode the benefit level each year of their retirement.
Pawlenty’s Medicare plan, meanwhile, “would focus on ‘payment reforms’ that would direct money to doctors and hospitals for better healthcare outcomes, similar to reforms he passed in Minnesota that incentivized pay for healthcare providers.” It would not voucherize the system. I’ll reserve judgment until he comes out with his plan, but this sounds like the same approach we have tried without success for decades: using federal health-care spending to make health care more efficient. It’s the same approach Obamacare doubles down on.