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A former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and an eminent economist tackle the biggest social issue of our time.Of all the issues swirling around the 2008 election, the staggering projected costs for the upkeep of America's largest entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—loom with gathering intensity. Government revenues alone cannot solve the problem, but a solution must be found. In this book George P. Shultz and John B. Shoven take a practical—and optimistic—look at the issues at hand, ...
A former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and an eminent economist tackle the biggest social issue of our time.Of all the issues swirling around the 2008 election, the staggering projected costs for the upkeep of America's largest entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—loom with gathering intensity. Government revenues alone cannot solve the problem, but a solution must be found. In this book George P. Shultz and John B. Shoven take a practical—and optimistic—look at the issues at hand, offering an agenda for reform that will make these essential programs solvent. Drawing on a trove of original research, they take stock of the current situation, consider plans on offer from major thinkers in the field, and chart a course toward a system that provides income for the elderly and universal access to health care in ways that are fiscally sound. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to make an informed decision about the country's future.
Posted September 9, 2008
I gave this book a good rating because it makes a good reference even though I disagreed strenuously with part of its recommendations. ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY -- The authors advocate a small increase in the Social Security tax 'FICA' that would be put into a new kind of IRA or Keogh Plan -- who cares what we call it. Since we already have a variety of such programs the need for another is not obvious. Any increase in FICA should go into classic Social Security. But the authors' plan to raise retirement age and reduce cost-of-living increases should be fair and adequate without the mandatory savings programs. We could increase the savings rate in this country by having employers set up savings plans by default rather than leaving it up to workers' initiative. I agree that it was almost criminal for Congress to appropriate the Social Security trust fund for general use, issuing notes for the money. It compounds the problem of paying Social Security benefits when the number of aged people rises beyond our ability to pay under the present plan. But having people invest Social Security money in the stock market is a worse idea. Stocks and bonds were a great investment for my aunt and uncle who were teachers in Ohio and never paid into Social Security. They died millionaires. But my one-twelfth inheritance of their estate has not grown at all in my Merrill Lynch account since they died. In fact, I get an SF 1099 every year telling me to pay taxes on my portfolio even when I had no income from it. That was supposed to be my retirement fund! In the modern era most people would have the same experience in the stock market I did, with the only revenue going to the stockbrokers. ABOUT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID -- The authors want to create a voucher system in which a new government agency would issue vouchers for amounts deemed appropriate to purchase catastrophic health coverage. There is no amount in a voucher that would induce an insurance company to cover someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. It just is not going to happen. The insurance would be supplemented by a new kind of flexible medical spending plan which would be provided free for Medicaid recipients, and would be for amounts sufficient to pay deductibles and copayments for the insurance. I suspect all insurance plans would have the savings plans built in. This would be more of a boon to the insurance industry than the owners. Many medical expenses are unpredictable, one-time events and could not be anticipated. The savings from avoiding unneeded insurance would be offset by medical bills that had not been provided for. Medicare would still end up paying for those, just as they do now. Any economist will say that a monopoly is more efficient than an oligopoly. A single-payer system would eliminate the adjudication of voucher amounts and the expense of stockholder dividends that private companies must pay. Besides, private insurance companies would be taxed on their profits, so we would end up collecting corporate income taxes on the money in the vouchers, thereby inflating the cost of the vouchers!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.