Robert J. Samuelson: Detroit not an isolated case; many governments are struggling
There's one escape valve. "States can't contract away their police powers: the ability to protect the health and welfare of their citizens," says Amy Monahan, a law professor at the University of Minnesota. They may be able to cut existing benefits if they can convince courts that these overburden other public goals. Both Minnesota and South Dakota cut COLAs and were upheld by state courts, she says. A similar change in Colorado is under appeal; so are Rhode Island's cuts. This is a legal no-man's land, with huge discretion left to judges.
Medicaid's expansion is also on autopilot. Even without Obamacare, spending would rise significantly. Older Americans and the disabled now account for two-thirds of costs, though representing only a quarter of beneficiaries. As the population ages, this burden will grow. Their medical care is simply more expensive. In 2011, spending for Medicaid's average aged recipient totaled $15,931, more than five times the average cost for children, $2,851, reports CMS.
It's literally schools versus nursing homes. We need a better balance between workers' legitimate desire for a comfortable retirement and society's larger interests. Instead, our system favors the past over the future. Things could be done to mitigate the bias. None would be easy or popular. But it's first necessary to acknowledge the bias and discuss it openly. This we are far from doing.
Robert J. Samuelson is a Washington Post columnist.
- Charles Krauthammer: The president's foreign...
- In our opinion: Looking upward, seeking...
- About Utah: All the mac and cheese they can eat
- Benefit Corporations: Why aren't Utah...
- A Hobbesian choice: Religious freedom in the...
- Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Count My...
- Letter: End daylight saving time
- Robert Bennett: Compromise will morph into...
- Letter: Religious freedom 54
- Charles Krauthammer: The president's... 44
- In our opinion: Boy Scouts of America... 33
- Was Hillary right to compare Putin to... 33
- Sen. Ted Cruz opens 2014 CPAC with... 30
- Letter: A 'dying' document 24
- A Hobbesian choice: Religious freedom... 23
- Senate defeats Obama in Justice nod 21