Obama, Entitlements, and Health Care


Barack Obama did an interview at The Washington Post yesterday where he apparently said a bunch of stuff, including something that inspired the Post to run a big article about his plans for entitlement reform. But for a long article about how Obama told the Post something about his plans for entitlement reform, it contains shockingly little information about what Obama actually said about his plans for entitlement reform. Instead, you see a bunch of political speculation. Josh Marshall has a post up with a message from a reader about how “The current owners (particularly the Sam Zell’s and private equity firms of the world) don’t give a hoot for the public trust aspect of the major metros that they own – unlike the families that started and ran these papers for generations.” That’s true, but by the same token it seems to me that a great many of the reporters working at these places don’t give a hoot about public trust issues either.

Thus an article where we have to wait until graf twenty before a substantive remark from Barack Obama about entitlement policy emerges. And he says—ellipsis in the original—the following:

“Social Security, we can solve,” he said, waving his left hand. “The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable. . . . We can’t solve Medicare in isolation from the broader problems of the health-care system.”

Since the article is poorly written, it’s hard to know what to make of this. But that sounds like Obama saying that entitlement reform should be made subordinate to comprehensive reform of the health care system. Or, rather, that Obama seems health care reform as the centerpiece of his approach to long-term budgetary strategy. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that’s what Obama thinks, since that’s definitely what Peter Orszag thinks, and Orszag is Obama’s choice to be his top budget guy. And if that’s right, that’s a kind of different story than one with this lede: “President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare ‘bargain’ with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.”