Sunday, January 6, 2013

Michael Gerson's mama wears combat boots

Another letter the Post didn't publish


Michael Gerson tells us that there are "only two responses [to the Medicare crisis]. The conservative approach...would involve focusing public benefits on the poor while requiring the wealthy and middle class to accept a greater share of their health costs ("Placating the middle class," Jan. 4)."

Perhaps I am naive, but that assertion comes as something of a surprise. If it is accurate, then I can't help noting that there just aren't many of those "conservatives" in Congress. In point of fact, I can't think of a single Republican in the House who has recently expressed a policy preference for the poor.

"The liberal approach," Gerson continues, "is to increase the percentage of the economy taken in taxes to well above historical norms to support the commitments of an essentially unreformed entitlement system."

I consider myself a liberal (maybe worse, but let's not go there), but that's not a description I recognize. Nevertheless, please, raise taxes "above the historical norm" to put people back to work. Once they are working and business is expanding production more rapidly, the GNP will go up faster than tax revenues, which Gerson ought to find gratifying.

And, by all means, reform Medicare to permit the government to achieve substantial savings through competitive bidding for medical equipment and a wide range of medical services, and allow for public funding of drug research in order to reduce the exorbitant profits that result from corporate control of drug patents.

And, to make Gerson conservatives happy, introduce a graduated means test that will reduce health benefits collected by upper-income individuals. Use such policies to reduce per capita health care costs to levels comparable to other industrial democracies and the Medicare crisis will go away. Into the bargain, the economy will benefit and even more jobs will be created.

Think of the subsequent growth in the GNP! Think of the reduction "in the percentage of the economy taken in taxes!" See the deficit shrink! Find the conservatives in Congress! There's work to be done!

Jeff Epton

Reader P.S. If you want to get a look at a letter of mine the Post did publish, check out "A tanker contract that shouldn't fly." It was almost five years ago, but I still like the letter.

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