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Is National Debt As Bad As Paul Ryan Says It Is? Lessons From The Past

The last two weeks have made clear that the debate over our national debt will play a major role in the next election cycle.

On one side, many Republicans, lead by Representative Ryan, insist that the rate of growth of our national debt – especially the massive projected growth of Medicare and Medicaid – promises to destroy our society within a generation or two; and that the only way to avert that catastrophe is to make substantial structural changes to our entitlement programs. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt is bad, and debt of this magnitude will be fatal.

On the other side, most Democrats, led by President Obama, stress that our entitlement programs are promises that simply can’t be changed in any substantial way, insist that such entitlements are “investments in our future,” and suggest that whatever shortfalls our current system might encounter can be remedied by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt can be a force for good, and in this case will trigger a much-needed redistribution of wealth (which is a primary goal of Progressives).

The debate over the national debt is as old as the Republic. In the original version of this debate, the part of the modern Republicans (i.e., debt is bad) was played by Jefferson, and the part of modern Democrats (i.e., debt is an investment in the future) by Hamilton. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Repealing Healthcare Reform To Gain Campaign Ammunition

Repealing healthcare reform has become a way of stockpiling ammunition for the campaign trail. The Republican-led House has scheduled a repeal of healthcare reform for Wednesday, Jan. 12, and they’d garner as allies some but not all 13 Democrats that voted against healthcare reform to begin with. The House’s quixotic vote would then promptly die in the Democrat-held Senate.

But recording votes on repeal would put pressure on already vulnerable lawmakers, as well as give a quick boost to incoming ones. A Gallup poll shows 46 percent of Americans want healthcare reform to be repealed, 40 percent don’t want repeal.

Unfortunately, not only can’t the law be passed, it would add $230 billion to the federal debt by 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I don’t think anyone in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit,” although Republicans have already exempted a repeal of the healthcare law from new rules prohibiting legislation from adding to the federal debt. (Politico, Kansas City Star, [Aurora, Ill.] Beacon-News, USA Today, CNN)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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